CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Science Hill senior Calvin Songster tuned up for a post-Christmas trip to Florida with a superlative display of shooting prowess over two days.
After scoring 27 points against Oak Ridge on Friday, Songster poured in 24, including four 3s, and led the Hilltoppers to a 71-62 victory over host Cleveland on Saturday to bring the curtain down on the annual Shootout, which was played at Cleveland Middle School due to the high school gym having been condemned – it’s about to fall down.
Demolition of the old Cleveland High dome and construction on a new gymnasium is expected to begin after the current school year ends.
The 6-foot-1-inch Songster, who is not drawing much attention from college recruiters, went on a tear in the second and third quarters to push the Hilltoppers (12-4) into a nine-point lead. When Songster went off, Science Hill trailed 23-21.
Of Science Hill’s next seven made baskets, Songster drilled five 3-pointers in groups of three and two. The first three long-distance buckets, along with a 3 by Hunter Hensley at the second-quarter buzzer, enabled Science Hill to take a 33-27 lead into halftime.
Early in the third quarter Songster made back-to-back contested 3s 33 seconds apart and Science Hill zipped into a 41-32 lead.
“I’m shooting it pretty well,” Songster said. “My teammates are getting the ball to me, I’m getting open and sticking my shots.”
Said Cleveland coach Jason McCowan, “Songster is tough.”
Hilltoppers coach Ken Cutlip knew what he had in Songster returning for the 2013-14 season. He was the only junior in the starting lineup with four seniors a year ago.
“Calvin is a warrior on the floor,” Cutlip said. “He’s a really good shooter. Our team does a fabulous job getting him shots and he has to work to get open. He’s shot it well so far this season.”
The Hilltoppers stretched their nine-point lead to 56-42 on Songster’s layup – yeah, he can go inside when he wants to -- with 1:04 left in the period.
Cleveland’s Kendrick Thompson, who paced the Blue Raiders with 19 points, converted a three-point play and Mason Brown ripped a 3 and Science Hill’s double-digit lead was slashed to eight points.
A 3-pointer and layup by Ware pulled the Blue Raiders (4-5) within 60-55 with 3:03 remaining, but Peyton Wingate drained a 3 from the right wing to push the lead to eight. Thompson’s 3 cut the Blue Raiders’ deficit to 60-58, but Peyton Wingate’s 3 gave the Hilltoppers some breathing room at 63-58 at the 2:27 mark.
Science Hill hit 7 of 9 free throws in the final 62 seconds to seal the win.
“I thought we got better today,” McCowan said as the gym cleared out. “When we cut their lead to two I thought we had a good shot at them. Once they got it back out to five or six they pulled it out and we had to foul them.
“You hate to lose, but we got something really good out of this weekend.”
Cantrel Ware finished with 10 points for Cleveland.
“Kendrick with score his 20 or 22 points a night,” McCowan said. “We need to find another guy to go with Kendrick who can consistently get 10 to 15. I’d like to see Cantrel Ware step into that role by being a little more aggressive. There’s no question we’re still searching for that guy who can make a difference. It’s just going to take some games.”
Songster was the only Hilltoppers player in double figures, but nine others scored.
Cutlip and the Hilltoppers will leave for Florida at midnight on Christmas day where they’ll play in the KSA tournament on Dec. 26-31 in Orlando.
“This was a good win for us,” Cutlip said. “I think this is one of the premier holiday events in the region, if not the state. We get four quality programs together and mix it up. It gives the coaches a chance to evaluate their programs. When you’re playing teams like Oak Ridge and Cleveland, you’ll find out your weaknesses pretty quick.”
The Blue Raiders won’t return to the court until Jan. 3 when they travel to Notre Dame.
The undefeated Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers opened with 24 unanswered points and demolished the Lady Blue Raiders, 61-13.
Cleveland went scoreless in the first and fourth quarters.
Science Hill (15-0), which has finished second in the state tournament the past two seasons and reached the Final Four three years ago, got 21 points from Tianna Tarter, more than enough by herself to turn back the anemic Blue Raiders (6-4).
“I thought we played well,” Lady Hilltoppers coach Keith Turner said. “We played hard and coaches sometimes worry when you get a big lead there’s a tendency to play sloppy, but this is the best we’ve played over the past few weeks. Our effort was good all night.”
When Tarter wasn’t connecting from the perimeter – she made four 3s – she was zigging and zagging through the Cleveland defense for high-percentage baskets in close.
“She can flat-out play,” Turner said. “She’s a senior and been to three state tournaments. The bigger the stage the better she plays.”
Keisha Gregory scored 14 points for Science Hill.
Jenna Scroggins had five points for Cleveland, which trailed 37-4 at the half and 55-13 after three quarters.
The Oak Ridge Wildcats beat Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett, 73-63, and the Lady Indians thumped the Lady Wildcats, 69-43.
Science Hill 17 16 23 15 – 71
Cleveland 14 13 15 20 – 62
Science Hill (71) – McGue, Sweeney 4, Brown 2, Calvin Songster 24, Begley 5, Hensley 6, Charles 7, Wanyder 8, Martin 4, Wingate 9, Nicksic 2, Adams, Galpen.
Cleveland (62) – T. Ware 5, C. Ware 10, Tatum 3, Kendrick Thompson 19, Beaty 6, Scott, Brown 8, Vecchia 2, Oliver 4, Gibson 5.
3-Point Goals: Science Hill 10 (Songster 5, Hensley 2, Wanyder 2, Charles); Cleveland 6 (Brown 2, T. Ware, C. Ware, Tatum, Thompson).
Dobyns-Bennett 20 18 17 8 – 63
Oak Ridge 18 17 19 19 – 73
Dobyns-Bennett (63) – Makale Freeman 13, Kincaid, Devin Stuart 14, Scott, Fulkerson 4, Matt Halvorsen 13, Byrd, Sokol 1, Holt 4, Paul Gadson 14.
Oak Ridge (73) – Jaylin Henderson 22, Steen 8, Mitchell 5, Gibson, GeeVantay Gee 7, Jones 5, Higgins 4, Johnson, Maddox 6, Isaac Merian 16.
3-Point Goals: Dobyns-Bennett 6 (Freeman 3, Halvorsen 3); Oak Ridge 6 (Henderson 3, Mitchell, Gibson, Gee).
Science Hill 18 19 18 6 – 61
Cleveland 0 4 9 0 – 13
Science Hill (61) – Tianna Tarter 21, True 1, Head 3, Hemien, Foster, Keisha Gregory 14, Rogers 2, Whiteside 3, Aples 5, Fenley 3, Lyon 9.
Cleveland (13) – Berry 4, Jenna Scoggins 5, Stamatiadis, Crump, Walkup, Phillips, Person, McClendon 4.
3-Point Goals: Science Hill 7 (Tarter 4, Gregory 2, Head).
Oak Ridge 8 4 15 16 – 43
Dobyns-Bennett 23 17 17 12 – 69
Oak Ridge (43) – Courtney Ellison 15, Daniels, Walls, Soudder, Caelyn Thompson 12, A. Anderson 5, Smith, Vohra, Brook Anderson 11, Benjamin, Asbury, Soles, Summons.
Dobyns-Bennett – Stratton 3, Tincher 3, Patterson 2, Sasha Morrisette 22, Madi Kilby 10, Alex Anderson 11, Cortney Depew 16, Epps, Sahper 2.
3-Point Goals: Oak Ridge None; Dobyns-Bennett 5 (Kilby 2, Stratton, Tincher, Depew.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)