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Tribe quells Chiefs; up next: rival Hilltoppers

By JOHNNY WILSON, Sports Correspondent • Jan 15, 2020 at 2:01 AM

KINGSPORT — The Dobyns-Bennett boys and girls basketball teams both kept up their end of the deal Tuesday night inside the Buck Van Huss Dome, sweeping Cherokee to remain clean in the Big 7 Conference and set up Friday’s midseason gut check on the road against equally perfect Science Hill.

After the Lady Indians (16-5, 5-0) earned a 65-18 victory in the opener, the Tribe (10-7, 5-0) dominated the second half of the boys’ game to snag a 56-45 win.

YOUNG FACES STEP UP

D-B’s boys, down three players against Cherokee because of illness and injury, need to have their A-game in Johnson City. The Hilltoppers have one loss in 20 games this season.

“Oh, it will be a tough environment for sure,” said Zane Whitson, D-B’s junior floor leader. “We’ve got some young players and we’ve got to get their heads right, but I think they’ve really come on since the start of the season.

“It’s a big game. They’re a good team and we know we’ve got to prepare well these next two days at practice. If we can really come together, we can win.”

With leading scorer Abiah Releford in street clothes along with teammates Dalton Harkleroad and Brady Stump, some young faces had to step up for Dobyns-Bennett to end Cherokee’s idea of a shocking upset.

A snoozer of a first half produced a 19-19 tie at intermission, but the final 16 minutes belonged strictly to a more focused Tribe.

“We talked at halftime about taking better care of the ball because we struggled with that in the first half,” Whitson said. “I thought our guards, McKinley Tincher and Jonavan Gillespie, really took care of the ball in the second half.”

The Indians opened the second half on a 21-6 tear, scoring on their first seven possessions and getting it done with all sorts of three-point offensive trips. Whitson, Tincher and Jahson Dennis all scored in the lane or on the baseline before Gillespie buried a pair of vital 3-point jumpers.

A 5-foot-6 freshman just up from the JV, Gillespie more than held his own in his first varsity action.

“I was nervous,” the 135-pound point guard said. “But once I hit that first 3, then it was just like playing ball out there.”

Malachi Hale, hacked on a 3-point shot, hit three free throws before Jack Browder produced a three-point play off a nice feed from Whitson.

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Hale, who tied Whitson for team-high scoring honors with 11 points, was all over the floor.

“The coaches just told me to play my game and execute,” said Hale, an oncoming sophomore star. “Play D, make steals and rebound the ball.”

A solid team effort was enough to hold off Cherokee, which received 16 points each from hard-working Breiydon Gilliam and talented sophomore Carter Metz.

LADY INDIANS WALTZ TO WIN

D-B’s girls made easy work of the Lady Chiefs, using a 16-0 first-half spurt to roll to a routine victory. The Tribe (16-5, 5-0) led 36-9 at halftime.

Elle Francis led the winners with 13 points, hitting four of the team’s eight 3-point jumpers. Jabrea Johnson added 10 points to the balanced D-B attack.

Cherokee (6-13, 0-5) was led by the six-point game of Sam Tilson.

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