By TREY WILLIAMS
Eight was enough for David Crockett’s basketball team.
The Pioneers snapped an eight-game losing streak to Dobyns-Bennett with a 42-40 victory Friday at Crockett. D-B hadn’t lost in the series since the Pioneers went to the state during the 2015-16 season. Sophomore guard Dawson Wagner and senior forward Donta Hackler scored 10 and nine points, respectively, while helping Crockett (6-3, 16-8) move into a second-place tie with the Indians.
“We’re sitting in a great spot right now in the conference,” first-year Crockett coach Cody Connell said. “It was pretty cool, because the atmosphere, man, everybody was standing up screaming and hollering. It was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it in there. It was amazing. It was like we won the Super Bowl. They were all over the court.
“It was good for my guys, because that was the first time they’d won in four years. They’d never beaten Dobyns-Bennett at the varsity level in four years. So it was really exciting for my guys – and to see them how excited they were, and pumped, I think it’s gonna help us going on. I think it’s gonna help our confidence.”
The most encouraging thing for Connell was Crockett’s defense. The Pioneers won despite shooting 16 percent from 3-point range.
“Our guys played really hard on the defensive side,” Connell said. “We rotated really well. We boxed out. We really wanted it defensively.
“And offensively, we couldn’t ask for better looks than we were getting. We were getting great looks at the ‘three.’ A couple of backdoors. We just couldn’t ever get anything to fall. They could probably say the same thing. They shot 14 percent from ‘three’ and we shot 16.”
Crockett used an active 2-3 zone the entire game. The Pioneers were mindful of Abiah Releford and Zane Whitson, who had productive games in Crockett’s three-point loss in Kingsport in the previous meeting.
“(Releford) scored five points within about the first three minutes of the ballgame and didn’t score another point the rest of the game,” Connell said. “He just really didn’t shoot very much. You’re talking about one of the possibilities of being player of the year (in the Big Seven Conference). My guys communicated, they passed him off. They knew where he was at all times. I know every one of them knows how big of a threat he is.”
Connell said his players saw the proof of a complete performance.
“We let the first one (against D-B) kind of slip away from us, and I’m not taking any credit away from them,” Connell said. “Dobyns-Bennett’s a great team and a well-coached team. In those two or three ballgames we’ve gotten beaten (in the conference) we take off about two or three minutes, and it’s like, ‘Man, it’s a whole different ballgame now. We had a big lead and now we don’t.’”
Crockett was scheduled to visit league-leading Science Hill on Tuesday and will take on Daniel Boone on Friday.
Boone beat Crockett in Jonesborough in the previous meeting after Cade Norris forced overtime with a buzzer-beating put-back. The potential for the same scenario arose when D-B’s Whitson got an offensive rebound Friday.
“It was like déjà vu,” Connell said. “You thought it was the Daniel Boone game again. They got the rebound across the front of the rim. But instead this time we fouled him hard. So he didn’t have a chance to make it. But it still almost went in.”
Whitson missed the first free throw, and after a timeout, missed the second one on purpose. But Hackler and Mason Britton helped prevent the potential for an offensive rebound.
“We got down five in the third,” Connell said. “We could’ve easily folded and let them get on a little run, but I thought our guys battled back and did what they were supposed to do. I was really proud of ‘em.”
After shooting 65 percent in a rout of Tennessee High on Tuesday, Daniel Boone’s boys saw Science Hill shoot 65 percent in the Hilltoppers’ 77-48 victory Friday night in Johnson City.
Jared Atkins and Colby Backus scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, for the Trailblazers (6-4, 13-8).
“I just didn’t think that we came out with the defensive intensity that we needed to,” Boone coach Chris Brown said. “They dictated the pace of the game. They dictated the intensity, the aggressiveness, and that was pretty much the difference.”
The Daniel Boone girls lost 46-19 at first-place Science Hill on Friday. Jaycie Jenkins led the ‘Blazers (7-3, 13-9) with seven points.
David Crockett’s girls fell 40-35 to second-place Dobyns-Bennett. Mackenzie Baldwin scored 12 points for Crockett (4-5, 13-12), while point guard Halle Scott added 11.