CLINTON, Tenn. | For Scott High, the bus couldn’t leave the parking lot at Clinton High School quickly enough Monday evening.
The Highlanders and Lady Highlanders had just fallen in their respective games — the guys to Halls; the ladies to Anderson County — to limp away from the “Donnie Dome” with fourth place finishes in the District 4-3A tournament.
Scott High’s girls left in the same position they started the tournament — fourth place — but had felt that they had a legitimate claim as the district’s second-best team going into postseason play. While the Lady Highlanders had fallen twice to Clinton in the regular season, both games had been close, and mired by lopsided free throw totals.
But Scott wouldn’t get a chance to prove it could best Clinton. The Lady Highlanders were rocked by the district front-runner, Halls, in a lopsided game on Friday to get things started.
Even worse was the follow-up against Anderson County on Monday. Not just because the Mavericks won the game, 53-37, but because it was a game against a team the Lady Highlanders had dominated at Highlander Gymnasium just a few weeks ago, and Monday’s rubber match wasn’t very competitive.
Things wouldn’t get much better for the Highlanders’ men’s team. After falling to their former coach, Jordan Jeffers, after sweeping Anderson County in the regular season, the Highlanders were left facing top-seeded Halls in the consolation game after the Red Devils were similarly upset by Clinton in the semifinal round.
The Highlanders had been dominated at Halls Crossroads in December, but had taken the Devils to overtime in Huntsville late in the season.
In Monday’s consolation game, Halls pulled away late for a game that at least appeared lopsided on paper, 59-39. After entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed — the Highlanders’ highest outright finish in district play in a generation — Scott limped out of the district tourney as a No. 4 seed, facing the prospect of a trip to state tournament hopeful Carter on Saturday for an elimination game.
The one thing that both teams had in common, not just in Monday’s games but across the tournament as a whole: abysmal shooting and dismal offensive production in a gym that the Highlanders will doubtlessly hope they don’t see again for a while.
After shooting an incredible two of 16 from the free throw line in the second half of Friday’s game against Halls, the Lady Highlanders again found themselves struggling in Monday’s consolation game.
Scott High had defeated the Mavs 49-18 at Highlander Gymnasium on Jan. 20 — the Lady Highlanders’ most lopsided win over a district opponent in more than 20 years, in fact — but in Monday’s rematch, Anderson County limited Scott to only 27% shooting. The Lady Highlanders were six of 15 from the free throw line, leaving their two-day total at 11 of 34 from the charity stripe.
Not everyone struggled to shoot the ball Monday. Junior guard Julie Lawson knocked down four 3-pointers, finishing with a team-high 12 points.
But the game was as much about Anderson County’s offense as anything else.
The last time the two teams met, the Mavs finished with only 18 points. In Monday’s game, the Mavs surpassed that total in the first quarter.
In fact, Anderson County had 24 first quarter points — 25% more than it had in the entire game the last go-around — and led 24-14. A big reason why was Lydia Meldrum, who had four 3-pointers in the opening period en route to a 16-point night.
Scott High’s defense, which carried the Lady Highlanders to their best season in five years, was maligned by Anderson County. While Meldrum was red-hot from 3-point range in the first quarter, Emily Mustard heated up inside in the second half. Mustard finished with a game-high 21 points.
Then there was the guys’ game against Halls. It wasn’t as lopsided as the final score of 59-39 indicated. In fact, the Highlanders led late in the first quarter, and it was a three-possession game going into the fourth quarter.
But offense was hard to come by for the Highlanders, who finished with only 13 made field goals and were one of 11 from 3-point range.
In two district tournament games at Clinton, Scott was seven of 34 from 3-point range — just 21%.
Defensively, the Highlanders kept themselves in the game. Scott Jeffers had four steals and was particularly effective in disrupting Halls in the first half. Grey Todd added three steals.
But offense was a struggle that left Highlander coach Rusty Yaden perplexed and musing that his team didn’t seem to have anyone who wanted to score points.
Skye Babb led the way with 10 points, but couldn’t get looks from 3-point range. Todd, who along with Babb is the Highlanders’ biggest threat from the perimeter, also was held without a made 3-pointer.
Scott High’s only successful 3-pointer came from freshman Isaiah Washam in the first half.
Brady Strunk and Toby Garrett each had six rebounds for the Highlanders in Monday’s game. Jeffers had a team-high three assists.
Chandler Gamble, who didn’t play against the Highlanders in either regular season meeting due to an injury, finished with a game-high 17 points. No other player scored in double figures, and the Highlanders were able to limit twins Caleb and Ethan Shaffer to a combined 10 points.
With the losses, both Highlander teams will travel to No. 1 seeds for the region quarterfinals. The girls will play at Seymour on Friday. The Eagles defeated Northview Academy in the District 3-3A championship game Monday, 52-34. It was their sixth consecutive win. In a game played in Seymour early in the season, the Eagles defeated the Lady Highlanders 48-30.
The men’s team will also be on the road Saturday, likely traveling to Carter. The Hornets were scheduled to host Gibbs in the District 3 championship game on Tuesday. They won both regular season meetings against the Eagles, by 18 and 19 points.
Both Friday’s and Saturday’s games will tip off at 7pm.
SCOTT (37): Lawson 12, Morrow 8, Terry 7, R. Price 3, Butts 3, Young 2, Woodward 1, Jeffers 1.
ANDERSON CO. (53): Mustard 21, Meldrum 16, Basford 5, Bullock 5, Kelly 4, Newman 2.
SCOTT (39): Babb 10, Todd 8, Jeffers 7, Strunk 4, Garrett 3, Washam 3, Lloyd 2, Woodward 2.
HALLS (59): Gamble 17, Elliot 9, C. Shaffer 8, Stanton 7, Holmes 6, Lane 4, Thomas 4, E. Shaffer 2, Workman 2.