Diminutive freshman guards Jonavan Gillespie and Brady Stump combined for 32 points, sophomore Malachi Hale came up big in the paint and the Indians earned their third straight sectional berth with a 71-62 win over Sevier County in the Region 1-AAA semifinals Tuesday night at Morristown East.
“Jonavan has a lot of confidence to get the job done,” said Tribe coach Chris Poore. “He stepped up these last few games in a big, big way. Tonight he made free throws, handled the ball and made shots. And Brady did the same thing.
“And Malachi was unbelievable. He has really been a force and active in the paint. That has really helped us on the glass and getting second-chance buckets.”
D-B (19-12) will face Science Hill in Thursday’s championship game at 7 p.m. Because two District 1 teams reached the finals, the game will be played at Science Hill’s New Gym. The Hilltoppers (31-3) knocked off South-Doyle 58-32 to reach the regional final.
Stump led the Indians with 19 points, and Gillespie added 13 doing a terrific job causing problems for Sevier County’s defense when he had the basketball. Hale owned the paint at times and finished with 17 points.
Gillespie said he wasn’t bothered by the big stage, even in the Indians’ biggest game of the year to date.
“At the beginning of the year, I was nervous, but I wasn’t nervous this time,” he said.
A trio of 3-pointers helped Gillespie’s confidence. The biggest one came late in the third quarter, giving the Indians a 48-43 lead.
“It took my confidence up a lot,” Gillespie said. “We were all hype, and we were ready to play after that.”
The Indians won despite leading scorer Abiah Releford hitting a trey early in the first quarter and not scoring the rest of the game.
“It’s kind of how our season has gone,” Poore noted. “We’ve had different guys in the lineup. But I know one thing: Abiah is a team leader and he’s the happiest guy in that locker room. He wants to win. Whether he has a big night scoring or not, he means a lot to this basketball team.”
MAKING A MOVE
The Indians seemed to be in trouble when Sevier County’s Camden McElhaney got ahead of the pack and dunked for a 41-37 lead in the third quarter. But Zane Whitson sparked a 6-0 Tribe run and D-B eventually took a 45-40 lead in the fourth quarter.
Whitson also reached double figures, scoring 11 points.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Stump drained a corner trey to open up a 58-49 lead. The Smokey Bears never recovered from that dagger.
“He’s always hitting shots like that,” Gillespie said. “He’s always coming in clutch. I don’t know how he does it.”
One of the ways the Indians turned the tables was their play against Sevier County standout Wes Maples. He had some first-half freedom and made the Indians pay, but D-B made him work harder in the second half and the difference showed.
Maples had 20 points in the first half but only 10 in the second. And only two of those points came during a long second-half stretch when the Indians took control of the game.
“We tried to deny him a little bit more, not let him get in rhythm,” Poore said. “I thought Jack (Browder) did a tremendous job keeping the ball out of his hands and frustrating him.”
THE FIRST HALF
The teams traded baskets in the nip-and-tuck early going. Maples’ coast-to-coast adventure ended with a buzzer-beating layup and a 13-11 lead for the Smoky Bears after one quarter.
In the second period, Maples converted a new-fashioned four-point play to stretch Sevier County’s lead to 32-19. However, the Smoky Bears went the last three minutes without a bucket and the Indians closed with eight straight — including a knockdown 3 by Gillespie with five seconds remaining — to move to 32-27 at the break.
HILLTOPPERS BLOW AWAY CHEROKEES
Amare Redd dominated for Science Hill (31-3), finishing with 13 points and 18 rebounds.
“He’s really our silent assassin,” Hilltoppers coach Ken Cutlip said. "He’s the most underrated player probably in the league.”
Hunter Phillips, who had a breakaway dunk after a steal on South-Doyle’s first possession, finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds and Jake Matherne added 10 points and eight boards for the ’Toppers.
Kendrick Holland led South-Doyle with 12 points.
Dobyns-Bennett 71, Sevier County 62
Whitson 11, Stump 19, Releford 3, Gillespie 13, Hale 17, Browder 8.
SEVIER COUNTY (21-8)
Miller 6, Wilson 2, Stanton 4, Zhou 13, Maples 30, McElhaney 7.
Dobyns-Bennett 11 16 23 21 — 71
Sevier County 13 19 13 17 — 62
3-point goals—D-B 3 (Gillespie 3, Stump 3, Releford), Sevier County 6 (Maples 3, Miller 2, Zhou).
Science Hill 58, South-Doyle 32
Carr 6, Holland 12, Scott 2, Brown 5, Snapp 5, Gillette 2.
SCIENCE HILL (31-3)
McLoyd 2, Cutlip 8, Shingledecker 1, Ballard 2, Redd 13, Edwards 2, Matherne 10, Messimer 8, Phillips 12.
South-Doyle 10 7 13 2 — 32
Science Hill 12 20 14 12 — 58
3-point goals—South-Doyle 0; Science Hill 3 (Messimer 2, Cutlip).