JOHNSON CITY—Science Hill came from behind in the final four minutes Monday night and went on to a 59-55 triumph over visiting Jefferson County in the semifinals of the Region 1-AAA Girls Tournament.
The Lady Hilltoppers, who don’t have a senior on their roster, erased a two-point deficit with a 9-2 run and then hit just enough free throws down the stretch to hold on for their 20th win against 10 losses.
Science Hill, which has been to the state tournament each of the past two seasons, will now play host to District Two champion Sevier County on Wednesday with the winner of that battle playing at home in Saturday’s sectional round while the loser will have to travel.
The Lady Patriots saw their season come to a disappointing end with a 15-15 worksheet.
Science Hill used a balanced scoring attack for the victory. Colleen Coughlin led the way with 13 with 10 of those coming in the first period. Nae Marion added 11 while Jasmin Myers and Kat Patton netted 10 apiece. Kierra Marrow contributed nine with six of those coming in the final two minutes.
Jefferson County’s Kali McMahan led all scorers with 24, 18 in the second half. Alexa Gramann, the lone senior, closed out her career with 14. Tara Scales chipped in nine and Makenzie Alvey had eight.
The Lady ‘Toppers were 20 of 43 from the floor for 46.5 percent including 5 of 8 three-point attempts. Jefferson County connected on 18 of 38 for 47.4 and made 4 of 12 behind the arc.
Jefferson County was deadly from the free throw line, sinking 15 of 17 including all 14 tries in the second half. McMahan was 9-9.
The home team had a 29-23 backboard advantage as Marion grabbed eight and Patton seven. Lilly Beth Johnston and Gramann had six each for the Lady Patriots.
Jefferson County didn’t turn the ball over as many times as in the last couple of contests, but it was two costly turnovers in the final two minutes that really hurt its chances at the victory.
The Lady Patriots led 47-45 after McMahan and Scales each hit a pair of free throws. They had the ball twice after that but turned it over and Coughlin scored to tie the count.
Another turnover and the Lady ‘Toppers took the lead as Myers took the ball to the basket to score and added a free throw to make it 50-47.
McMahan hit a 15-foot jumper but Marion and Marrow hit back-to-back baskets and Science Hill was up 54-49. Gramann made a bucket before fouling out with 1:01 to play. Myers it one of two free throws and Scales drove for a basket that got the Lady Patriots within 54-53 with 44 seconds remaining.
Coughlin was fouled and hit the first of two. However, when she missed the second toss Marion grabbed the rebound and was fouled. She hit one to restore the four-point spread. Alvey and Marrow traded baskets in the final seconds.
Jefferson County coach Jeremy Byrd said, “We had the ball with the lead and threw it away a couple of times. That’s pretty consistent with the way we were this season. We had ourselves in good situations several times and then turned it over and wound up losing.
“It was frustrating at times,” he added. “But we really played hard tonight against a good basketball team. And we played really well most of the time.”
Byrd added, “They really hurt us on the offensive boards but I thought we did a lot better in the second half.”
In talking about the play of McMahan, Byrd said, “Kali had an awesome post-season. She played really well and I’m excited about the way she played in the tournament.”
He talked about his senior. “I told Alexa how proud I am of her for the kind of season she had,” said Byrd. “I told her I respected her for her leadership this year even when I know she’s uncomfortable with being the vocal leader out there. She will be greatly missed.”
Jefferson County scored the game’s first five points and led by 7-4. Coughlin nailed a triple to tie the score. Marion made two charity tosses to put the Lady ‘Toppers in front for the first time.
McMahan scored to put the visitors up again but Coughlin banked in a short jumper and then gunned through another trey. Alvey scored for the Lady Patriots but Marion had a three and the home team led 19-14 at the first stop.
Neither team hit a basket in the first five minutes of the second stanza as the only points came on two free throws by McMahan and another by Gramann. Marion and Gramann traded buckets but Patton and Marion had buckets before the half and it was 25-19 at intermission.
The Lady ‘Toppers led 30-23 on a three by Myers early in the third frame but McMahan hit a basket, Alvey popped in a triple and McMahan hit two free tosses to knot the score with 5:17 left in the quarter.
The teams traded points with a McMahan three tying the score at 41-41 at the final rest stop.
Gramann hit two free throws with 6:46 left to put Jefferson County ahead for the first time since the opening quarter. But Myers hit two foul shots and Marrow had a steal and layup and the home team was back ahead.
McMahan hit a pair of free tosses with 4:53 on the clock and two more by Scales made it 47-45 and set the stage for the finish.