TAD teams tumble in Middle Eight finals

By Michelle Pope
JOHNSON CITY--The T.A. Dugger girls fought a hard battle against Vance Middle in the Middle Eight Conference championship game at Indian Trail Thursday evening, taking a one-point loss, 28-27.
After bouncing back from a three-point first quarter, TAD kept pace with the Jr. Lady Vikings throughout the remainder of the game, finishing each quarter no more than two behind.
Dugger girls' coach Angie Barker felt that her team should have been able to take the win. "We didn't play really well as far as our game goes," Barker said. "I don't mind getting beat when the team is better than us, but we gave them that game. We had many opportunities to win the game."
A three-point goal from Vance's Cindy Stout helped the Jr. Lady Vikings take a 7-3 lead by the time the first buzzer sounded. TAD made up for lost time in the second quarter, going five of six from the penalty stripe. A three-way pass that started with Kyla Jones, and went through Jasmine Treadway, landed in the hands of Leah Henson for a split second on its way through TAD's hoop to give Dugger seven points for a 12-10 halftime score.
After a basket from Vance's Nikita Jones, Jr. Lady Cyclone Janey Robinson was fouled on a layup, and added a third point from the foul line to make the score 14-13.
Vance answered with a 6-0 run that included a trey from Jones for the seven-point lead. The Jr. Lady Cyclones took control of the rest of the quarter with two free throws from Pietrowski, an inside basket by Jones, and an outside shot by Hannah Fritz that went in seconds before the buzzer, putting TAD within one point again, at 20-19.
In the final quarter, each team struggled for the momentum that would carry them to the win. Danielle Montgomery scored six points for Vance, while Jones put in four for TAD.
Both teams played an eight-point quarter, but Vance's one-point lead carried through to the end, giving them the conference championship win. Vance's Jones scored a game-high 11 points, while Montgomery added eight. Henson and Jones led T.A. Dugger with six points each. The all-tournament players for the Jr. Lady Cyclones were Henson and Kelli Culler.
In the boys' game, an upstart TAD squad gave the championship game its best shot, but a 22-point quarter from Science Hill dealt the Jr. Cyclones a heavy blow they never recovered from in a 57-40 Jr. Hilltopper victory.
Bo Carter scored the game-opening shot for Dugger, but David Martin took control for Science Hill, scoring six points in a row. A team effort that included two free throws from Wes Anderson, a Wendall Loving layup, and a drive from Loving that Brent Thomas put in seconds before the buzzer, put the Jr. Cyclones within two points.
"For us to be here, number one, is outstanding," said TAD coach James Jacobs. "We came into the tournament 1 and 11 in the conference, and we were seven seed. Then we go to Unicoi County and knock them off -- a two seed. Sevier was a three seed, and then to come this far is a great achievement for these guys, and they absolutely worked hard."
In the second quarter, Aaron Ebard put down 10 points for Science Hill, while the Jr. Hilltopper defense held TAD to seven points. After seven points from Alex Jacobson, Science Hill had the 33-16 lead at halftime.
"Coach Barnett does an outstanding job with his guys," said Jacobs. "They came out ready to play and they were ready to go at the tip ball. I think there was a stretch there when we had it close. It was 13 to 11, and they went on a really fast run and we were chasing them the whole time."
Dugger point guard Ryan Greene took a turn beneath the basket in the third quarter, scoring 11 points to help bring the Jr. Cyclones within 11 of Science Hill's score at the end of the quarter. However, a Hilltopper team effort in the final quarter put 15 more points on the board, while Dugger only managed nine.
Ryan Birchfield sunk five points in the fourth, while Jake Peters and Anderson added a basket each.
"I expected a challenge," said Science Hill coach Todd Barnett. "Elizabethton -- I still think they're playing the best ball of anybody in our league right now, because of the way they came on at the end of the year. I think they're just as good as anybody we'll play."
Greene was the game's leading scorer, sinking 13 points for TAD, while Science Hill's Ebard was a step behind with 12 points. Carter and Greene were chosen as all-tournament players for T.A. Dugger.
"I am so proud that they hung in there after this kind of season, and then made it this far," Jacobs said of his team, which will face the Hilltoppers again this Saturday in the area tournament.