Jake Matherne’s ability to pass out of a deep post to cutting guards and his craftiness to score off the backboard with his left hand were huge in the Hilltoppers’ 64-52 win. Matherne finished with 16 points.
“Jake was effective scoring for us tonight and he didn’t try to force it,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “We did a good job sharing the basketball. We pushed the ball and we had a lot of opportunities.”
Said Gate City coach Scott Vermillion: “When (Matherne) caught it deep, he really hurt us. I was telling our guys that we made some mistakes that could have kept us in the game. At the end of the day, they’re a good team that has all the pieces of being a really good team.
“Matherne is hard to guard down low being that good of a passer and being left-handed.”
Gate City star guard Bradley Dean poured in a game-high 30 points though, surprisingly, he did not hit a single 3-pointer.
“Against a team like Gate City, it all starts on the defensive end,” Cutlip said. “Dean is amazing, but they’re more than Dean and they’re better than when we played them the first time.”
The Blue Devils cut what was once an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to five with 2:28 left to play. However, Science Hill did a good job closing out the game and making free throws against a hard-charging opponent.
“This is a good thing for us, especially being on a three-game week,” Cutlip said. “This is how you prepare for postseason play. This was back-to-back nights and our kids played hard last night. For our kids to dig deep and get a win is a big step to being successful in the postseason.”
The ’Toppers led just about the whole way. The closest the Blue Devils got to retaking the lead after giving it up early came at the end of the first half.
Science Hill held a 28-18 advantage with four minutes left before halftime, but Gate City closed on an 11-4 run and got within one, 30-29, before Jordan McLoyd hit a runner to end the half.
McLoyd and Griffin Ballard each finished with 12 points for Science Hill.
Andrew Hensley scored 11 points for Gate City but did not make a bucket in the second half.
“They guarded (Andrew) a little tighter and they did a good job with that,” Vermillion said. “He needs to power through some of that stuff, though. He’s experiencing a little bit of what Jon Compton did after we beat D-B and teams guarded him a bit differently.”
It has been some time since Gate City was beaten by the same team twice in one season.
“We didn’t make too many adjustments from the first time,” Vermillion said. “We try to focus on our league and we will use this game to get better. They play similar to us in the ways that they want to push the ball and get it in certain spots.
“This prepares us for something we might see later. We always play in the Arby’s and teams like D-B and Science Hill to try to prepare us for something we might see coming out of Region A or Region B. We do this for a reason.”