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Pioneers head into district tournament

Crockett’s Eric Dunbar (11) works to stop Volunteer’s Andrew Kittel (10) at a previous game in the season. The Pioneers will once again face the Falcons tonight at 7:30 p.m. (Photo by Ron Weaver)


H&T Correspondent

The David Crockett boys basketball team enters tournament time in peak condition.

The Pioneers (19-8) finished third in the Big Seven Conference after rallying to complete a regular season sweep of Tennessee High with a 52-48 victory on Feb. 11 at Crockett. Crockett, which was picked to finish fifth in the league under first-year coach Cody Connell, will have a regional berth at stake when it plays Volunteer (6-19) in its District 1-AAA semifinal after press time for the Herald and Tribune on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Cherokee High School.

Volunteer, which finished seventh in the league, is led by former Crockett coach Mike Poe. His young Falcons were 0-11 in the league before beating Cherokee last week and then beating the Chiefs again in the play-in game Monday.

Crockett swept Volunteer by 20- and 25-point margins, but Connell anticipates resistance.

“The last time we played Volunteer, they shot a hundred percent and we couldn’t make a basket in the first quarter,” Connell said. “And they were up 10 at the end of the first. … They’re streaky enough and have good enough shooters to kind of keep ‘em in the ballgame.”

Crockett got 14 points apiece from seniors Mack Hensley and Donta Hackler against Tennessee High, which led by seven with less than two minutes remaining.

“They both played very well against Tennessee High,” Connell said. “They’re leaders. They step up.”

Hensley is averaging 14 points, 6.5 rebounds, three assists and three steals per game. Sophomore point guard Dawson Wagner is averaging 14 points, four assists, four steals and four rebounds.

Hackler is averaging 12 points and five rebounds, and Mason Britton averages 10 points and seven rebounds.

“We’ve got five to seven guys that are just doing their roles,” Connell said, “and you really don’t know who to stop.”

Crockett went 8-4 in the league. One of the losses was by three points to Dobyns-Bennett and another was in double overtime to Boone, a heartbreaking defeat it avenged at Boone during the hot homestretch of the season.

“When they beat Boone it’s like we won the World Series,” Connell said. “When we beat Dobyns-Bennett, when we beat Tennessee High, it’s like, man, your heart’s pounding and you’re excited for ‘em. That’s why I do it. I love to see their faces, their smiles. You walk in the locker room after the game and they’re going crazy.”

Boone was scheduled to open district play against Tennessee High in a do-or-die game on Tuesday. The Trailblazers were reeling before spoiling the final regular season game of coach John Dyer’s lengthy career with an 80-68 win at Sullivan East on Friday.

Senior guard Jared Adkins poured in a career-high 32 points. Adkins is leading the ‘Blazers with 16.4 points and 3.5 assists per game.

“Jared’s game has shown tremendous growth over the past two years,” Boone coach Chris Brown said. “Early in his career he was predominantly a shooter. He has now become a scorer. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor and go by you in addition to the outside shot. 

“His defense and rebounding has improved as well making him a more complete player.

“Our guys really put the work in individually and we put a tremendous emphasis on our individual workouts which we do all year long. It’s great when  you see the development and improvement in each of their games. It’s a testament to their work ethic and desire to get better.”

Fellow seniors Cade Norris and Colby Backus scored 19 and 10 points, respectively, against East. Norris is averaging 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds this season. Backus is averaging 9.8 points and 5.7 rebounds, and senior guard Zach Sauls leads the team with 2.8 steals per game and has drawn a team-high 17 charges.

Daniel Boone’s girls got an impressive performance from Jaycie Jenkins in a 47-36 victory at Sullivan East during the final regular season game of her prolific career.

The multi-threat forward scored a game-high 23 points while helping the visiting ‘Blazers stop Sullivan East’s six-game wins streak.

Jenkins helped Boone conclude the contest on a 13-2 run. She had eight points and an assist during that span. She made back-to-back 3-pointers to extend a five-point lead with 90 seconds remaining to 46-35 with 1:05 left.

“They came back there in the third quarter and tied it up,” Boone coach Beau Hauldren said, “and in the fourth quarter Jaycie took over. She was able to put some dagger threes in ‘em. 

“I’m glad I’ve got 22 (Jenkins).”

Boone, the No. 2 seed, has secured a spot in the regional, and will play an opponent to be determined in the semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m. at Cherokee.

David Crockett’s girls, still without coach Tony Gordon, were scheduled to play fifth-seeded Volunteer on Tuesday after press time for the Herald and Tribune. Connell will continue to help the girls during Gordon’s absence, which has been attributed to illness by Crockett officials.

“The girls are great and their assistants are awesome,” Connell said. “The girls are very respectful and they play hard. They want to do whatever they can to win. 

“I want to try whatever I can do to help them be successful and get a first-round conference win.”