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Goodbye district, hello regionals: Crockett, Boone win district openers

David Crockett and Daniel Boone can breathe a sigh of relief after winning their opening games of the district to gain a spot in the regional tournament.
A Crockett win against Tennessee High on Feb. 15 wasn’t the only surprise of the tournament, as the Pioneers and Blazers met for the fourth time this season, on Feb. 19 in a consolation game at Science Hill.
The Pioneers (18-14) earned a fourth seed in the district tournament, and by doing so, were able to host the fifth-seeded Tennessee High Vikings (17-14) to open postseason play.
Crockett dropped both games in two earlier meetings against the Vikings this season, but was more than ready to do something they hadn’t done since 2005 — advance in the postseason.
With one of their strongest defensive performances of the season, Crockett solidified a place in Saturday’s region opener, beating the Vikings 41-34.
The Pioneers led by five points at the end of the first half, but saw their lead quickly evaporate in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
Their opponent opened the second half with a big run to grab the lead at 25-21, but the Pioneers who are no stranger to close games, quickly assumed control, heading to the final stanza with a three point cushion.
The fourth quarter went back-and-forth with Tennessee High getting some opportunities to take the lead, but Crockett slammed the door at the free throw line in the final minutes. Crockett’s seven-footer Zach Garland controlled the interior on both sides of the ball, limiting Viking shots inside, while leading the Pioneers on offense with 12 points.
While Crockett was in the midst of earning their first regional berth in six years, the other Washington County team was readying a return to familiarity.
The Trailblazers of Daniel Boone are no strangers to regional play, advancing to and through the tournament a year ago.
In the confines of Bobby Snyder Gymnasium, the three-seeded Blazers (21-10) used a huge first quarter, outscoring the six seeded Volunteer Falcons 19-6, to earn a 76-61 win and a spot in the regional tournament.
Although Volunteer kept the game within reach in the second half, the first quarter proved too much to overcome as the Falcons never led in the contest. The Blazers used 11 three-pointers and a consistent inside—outside attack in the win.
Four Blazers reached double-figures, but guard Travis Keever rose above the rest, connecting on five threes to pace his game high 29 points.
With a first round win and a regional berth in the books, the remaining games of the district tournament would decide what seed the Blazers and Pioneers would assume in the region.
On Feb. 17, Crockett and Boone ventured to Science Hill for the semifinals of district.
Had they known what lie ahead, they might have considered a night off.
In the first game of the night Boone met two-seeded Dobyns-Bennett who shot lights out from start to finish, connecting on well over 50 percent of their shots. The last time the two teams met, the Blazers earned a double-overtime win, this time around the Indians handed Boone their worse loss of the season with a shocking 84-52 final.
Boone head coach Ryan Arnold called the game, a “major letdown.”
“We came in there planning to compete and got outplayed from the tip to the buzzer,” he said. “Dobyns-Bennett is a very good team, but we weren’t expecting to get beat the way we did.”
The Blazers weren’t alone, as Science Hill routed Crockett for the third time this season, 80-52.
The Blazer and Crockett losses setup a third place game two nights later at Science Hill with the two Washington County schools meeting one another for the fourth time this season. The Pioneers won the three previous contests in extremely close finishes. This time, Boone used its Thursday shellacking as a wakeup call on the eve of rivalry game.
“The guys had a player’s only meeting following the loss, I think losing by 32 points was a huge wakeup call and they were able to really iron some things out,” Arnold said. “Friday was the best practice we have had in two years. This team has earned the respect to be where it is and we want to keep that respect.”
Entering the contest against Crockett on Saturday, respect was on the line as Boone tried to avoid a fourth loss to its biggest rival.
The Blazers opened the first quarter struggling offensively, and the Pioneers took advantage grabbing a 12-8 lead by quarters end.
“We are an offensive minded team, I coach that way, they play that way, when we aren’t shooting the ball well we have to make up for it in other aspects of the game,” Arnold said.
Boone responded to their coaches call, holding the Pioneers to only eight second quarter points, while cutting the Crockett lead to just a point at intermission. The offense finally came together for the Blazers in the third quarter, as Boone eventually grabbed the lead by a point as time was winding down. With only seconds left in third, Boone’s sixth man Taylor Johnson fired a long prayer at the buzzer, the shot went in and Boone never looked back.
With a four-point lead entering the fourth, an Austin Reppart three-pointer turned into an 8-0 Boone run to start the quarter. Ahead by 12, the Blazers kept scoring, turning a game that had been close for the first 24 minutes into an easy 63-48 win.
“Crockett has a great ball club,” Arnold said. “They are very well coached and it was definitely special to get the win after losing to them three times in the regular season.”
The Pioneers were led on offense by Garland. The only Crockett player to reach double-figures, he finished with a game high 22 points.
Chandley paced Boone with another double-double while Reppart and Ryan Gaitor also reached double-figures, scoring 14 and 12 respectively.
Crockett and Boone will now await the finish of Tuesday night’s district championship between Morristown East and Cherokee. Boone will play the loser of the contest and Crockett the winner to open regional action on Feb. 26. Both teams will be playing away.