Playing their first games since each competed in December holiday tournaments, the Tribe slipped past Crockett’s boys 58-55 after the Lady Indians had eventually pulled away from the Lady Pioneers 44-29.
D-B’s Zane Whitson scoffed at the old notion that maybe the Indians had gotten a bit “fat” since their last regular-season game on Dec. 19.
“I don’t believe in that. We worked too hard over Christmas break,” the junior guard said. “I mean, about every day we were out here busting our butts in practice (when not competing in the Arby’s Classic).”
Still, Whitson and the Tribe (8-6, 3-0) had their hands full with Crockett. The Pioneers (11-5, 2-1) led most of the night but couldn’t make the decisive plays when the going got tough.
Crockett led 19-8 after one period, 28-22 at the half and 42-38 after the third.
“We were up early, in fact we were up pretty much the whole night,” said first-year Pioneers coach Cody Connell. “We were up nine points (actually 11) but we couldn’t get that next bucket to stretch it to that next level.
“We just couldn’t hit the shots when we needed to, and you’ve got to give it to D-B for hanging in there and coming back. They deserved to win this one.”
D-B, which scored the first 12 points of the second quarter and eight of the first 10 to begin the fourth, won behind the leadership of Whitson and Abiah Releford, both of whom sparked the Indians at different times.
Releford, a senior guard, nailed three 3-point jumpers and came up with a number of key steals and subsequent snowbird layups to score 20 points.
The 6-foot-2 Whitson distributed well to teammates and scored 17 points.
But others, like twin 6-4 underclassmen Jahson Dennis and Malachi Hale on the glass and on the baseline, in addition to senior Dalton Harkleroad at the free-throw line, contributed as well.
“Everybody pulled their weight tonight and we really played as a team,” Whitson said. “In the first half we came out a little slow, but in the second half we kicked it in and everyone did what we had to do to get this win.
“I never was worried, really. I was just waiting for us to click it in and get focused, and once that happened we started making plays.”
Crockett, which received 14 points apiece from Donta Hackler and Mack Hensley, plus 13 from Mason Britton, misfired on a 22-foot 3-pointer at the final buzzer to seal its fate.
The balanced Pioneers hit 8 of 28 shots from beyond the arc. Hackler knocked down four of them.
LADY INDIANS RECOVER
The Dobyns-Bennett girls, down throughout the first half, played a nearly flawless second half and pulled away to a comfortable win over the Lady Pioneers.
The Lady Indians (14-4, 3-0) found themselves in an 18-10 pickle after one quarter, but eventually they dialed it in from the perimeter and turned it around, outscoring the visitors from Jonesborough 24-5 by a count after intermission.
D-B, which scored the game’s final 13 points, threw a shutout in the last period.
“This is no excuse, but it was the first day back in school (from Christmas break) and that’s always a hard night to play,” said Lady Indians coach Bill Francis. “Crockett did a great job of taking away our inside game early on by doubling us on the low block, as I expected, and we did a poor job of adjusting to that.
“But once we pulled our post out high, that loosened their defense up a bit and gave us more seams, more openings on the perimeter, and we hit those.”
Elle Francis, the coach’s daughter, in particular wore it out from the perimeter, knocking down five 3-point jumpers to lead all scorers with 17 points.
“She did tonight, buddy, I’ll tell ya,” Francis said, when asked if the coach’s kid could shoot it. “She’s been struggling a bit since the Gate City game, but we’ve been telling her to stay with it and keep taking good shots, and it’ll pay off.”
Emma Gouge scored 12 points to pace Crockett (10-8, 2-1).