(WJHL) – All five high school boys basketball teams from Northeast Tennessee came out of their sectional playoff matchups with victories on Monday night – earning trips to their respective state tournaments.
Dobyns-Bennett erased a 16-point first-half deficit inside the Tribe Athletic Complex to defeat William Blount, 64-63. Senior Dante Oliver scored 31 points, 29 of them in the second half – including the winning free throws – to send the crowd into a frenzy.
“Out of halftime, I just kept my confidence up. I struggled in the first half making shots, but I kept my confidence up and it ended up working out,” Oliver said after the game. “A couple games ago I was struggling at the free throw line. I was like 6-for-10 a couple games ago and all week I was just focused on making free throws, making 100 a day, and it paid off in the end.”
“For him to make the plays all throughout the second half, it was only fitting for him to get the ball at the end – made a play,” Tribe head coach Chris Poore said. “Then to make the free throws, with no time on the clock, with nobody on the free throw line, with the crowd going crazy – just shows a lot about how he’s made.”
The Tribe will have a chance to defend its 4A state title from a season ago in Murfreesboro.
For the first time in 37 years, Unicoi County is headed back to the state basketball tournament, as they dispatched Knox Carter, 77-63.
“I mean, whenever I hit that first shot in the place, I mean, crazy,” Blue Devils guard Grant Hensley said. “There’s nothing you can feel that confidence. That was the loudest I’ve ever heard this term. And it was just a great feeling. “
“It means everything, man,” teammate Eli Johnson said. “I’m super excited. My brother made it to the state champions our state tournament six years ago. So I’m really excited.”
“It’s really hard to feel at this moment,” Unicoi County head coach Jordan Simmons admitted. “I just don’t know over like, it’s just – just so happy for our team and our program and all the people.”
In Johnson City, University High thumped Greenback, 71-52, to earn its spot in the Class 1A state tournament.
“Really fun atmosphere, allowed to play in front of my friends, play with my family,” Bucs guard AJ Murphy said. “It’s just a great experience to be able to go to state, and that was a great game to win.”
“We’ve worked hard all season and we come in every day and work hind ends off, and it’s just amazing to see it all pay off,” teammate Mason Croley said. “You know, we said to be in here, this is our goal.”
“We knew all year that we have the talent but the players started growing, you know, growing together,” head coach Herman Rice said. “And they just the last month has been incredible. They started playing great basketball at the right time of the year. And they deserve to go. I’m extremely happy for them.”
In Virginia, a pair of Class 2 heavyweights went blow for blow in the girl’s state semifinals. Despite taking an early lead, Gate City fell to the defending state champs, Wise Central, 51-50.
Emmah McAmis finished with 18 points, despite dealing with an ankle injury.
The Lady Warriors will play for a Class 2 championship in Richmond’s Siegel Center on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
OTHER MONDAY SCORES:
Volunteer 95, Knox Halls 71 (Boys AAA Sectional)
Hampton 73, Oneida 55 (Boys A Sectional)