The senior quartet of David Bryant, Junior Danso, Tate Wheeler and Kendle Williams combined with junior Jerriah Love to form a fearsome starting five on Friday night, scoring the first 16 points of the game in a 73-33 rout of Cherokee.
The Hilltoppers improved to 21-7 overall and finished 11-1 in the Big Seven Conference. They also earned the No. 1 seed in next week's District 1-AAA boys' tournament.
Bryant led the way a team-best 20 points. His total included six made shots behind the 3-point line.
"We came out hot and we came out running and gunning because it was a big night," Bryant said. "We were just letting fly and having fun out there."
Williams scored six in his first start of the season and earned even more praise for his defensive efforts against the Chiefs' Ryan Bledsoe. After Bledsoe scored 26 against Science Hill in the teams' previous meeting, he was held to just nine points Friday night.
"An unbelievable way for our seniors to go out on senior night in the last home game of the season," Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. "Tate Wheeler, David Bryant, Junior Danso and especially Kendle Williams was such a spark. He's been the most selfless guy we've had on the team all year.
"He does anything we ask and he has an unbelievable attitude. He's such a great team guy. His assignment was to make it difficult on Bledsoe early. He scored 17 in the first half against us down there, and Kendle took that upon his shoulders and did an outstanding job."
FUN TIME ON THE HILL
The Hilltoppers left nothing to chance, leading 30-8 at the end of one quarter and 50-24 at the half. They continued to roll, up 68-29 at the end of three quarters before a continuous clock in the fourth.
Jerriah Love had 10 points and five assists. Drew Morrison powered his way to eight points while Jake Matherne, Jordan McCloyd and Williams all scored six. Wheeler led the team with nine rebounds and Danso matched the team-best with five assists on a night when the 'Toppers had 20 assists on their 26 field goals.
"We were having a lot of fun out there," Williams said. "We had nice energy from the bench and from the crowd. There was a big student section tonight."
HAWKINS COUNTY RIVALRY
The Chiefs fell to 10-15 and 2-10. They must rebound and refocus quickly with a battle against Hawkins County rival Volunteer in a play-in game to start the district tournament on Monday. Cherokee won both previous meetings against the Falcons this season.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Cherokee coach Ty Webb said. “It’s hard to beat somebody three times, let alone a rivalry game in the first game of the tournament. It’s a tough matchup, so we’ve got to refocus and buckle down in practice where we can take some momentum into that game.”
Science Hill 56, Cherokee 33
The Lady 'Toppers (24-4, 10-2) got rolling early, taking a 24-4 lead at the end of one quarter to take the win over the Lady Chiefs.
Cherokee (11-16, 3-9) fought back and trailed just 27-19 early in the third quarter before back-to-back scores by Erin Egerbrecht and Symantha Fugate quickly pushed the lead back to 13 points.
Fugate led Science Hill's efforts with 12 points, followed by Alasia Smith with 10 and Egerbrecht with nine. Dezol Love and Aysha Redford added to the balanced attack with eight and seven points, respectively.
"The balance is what we strive for," Science Hill coach Scottie Whaley said. "The last two weeks, we've really moved the ball well. We got off to the great start and got a little stagnant in the second quarter, so we just emphasized at halftime to move the ball better and they did that with the pass-cut to get a great shot. When we do those things, we're a good team."
Harper Russell had a 15-point effort to lead the Lady Chiefs. Kennedy Cowan added six points.
Four Science Hill seniors — Jackson Whiteside, Samantha Austin, Redford and Love — were honored after the game.
"They're great kids and they've represented this program with class," Whaley said. "They're some of the best kids in the school and it's been an honor to coach them. They've played unselfishly throughout their careers. They're proof if you hang in there and work hard, then good things happen to good people."