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FHS boys explode out of the gate, hang on versus Science Hill; 2nd in tourney

Sam Watson’s first-quarter dominance, posting up for easy points, set the stage for Farragut’s team dominance from mid-first quarter until early in the fourth quarter against a talented Science Hill team.

While FHS perimeter defense also did its part early on, the Hilltoppers were too talented not to rally. The Johnson City boys almost erased a 17-point Admirals lead in the final frame.

But four Zack Warnock free throws in the final 1:37 and a critical Austin Bolen rebound helped seal a 79-74 FHS win during HoopsFeast, the annual Thanksgiving Central High School tournament, Friday, Nov. 28.

Farragut, 4-1, entering the week, took second-place in the eight-team tourney at 2-1.

Agasint SHHS, “I thought Zack Warnock came in tonight and hit some big free throws and played real good defense,” FHS head coach Donald Dodgen said. “I thought they all played well.

“It’s a big win for us, they’re tough with the athletes they have,” Dodgen added. “I thought tonight we came out and jumped on ’em quick. … Our bench did a tremendous job handling their pressure, gave us some valuable playing time. Hit some big shots.”

Watson, 6-foot-9 senior post and All-Tournament choice, had a team-high 18 points that included four post-up baskets in the first quarter, which helped turn a 9-7 FHS deficit into a 13-0 run and a 20-9 lead.

But Watson heaved praised upon his teammates, namely 6-10 fellow post Ben Mixer, who helped Farragut dominate the post on both ends for about three quarters. “He turned one of our weaknesses inside to one of our strengths,” Watson said of the senior transfer from Centennial. “I usually get the smaller guy, so that helps me get better looks. He’s a great passer inside. He’s probably got half of my assists this year.”

While Science Hill’s HoopsFeast record ended 2-1, the Ads’ went on to crush Alcoa 65-29 in the last tourney game Nov. 29; and a 66-56 loss to Dobyns-Bennett to open tourney play Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Against Science Hill, Farragut used six second quarter points from junior forward Nate Clark, another FHS All-tourney selection who scored 16 by game’s end, to help build a 43-27 halftime lead.

“We knew coming in they were going to be tough, coach scouted ’em,” Clark said. “We just had a pretty good gameplan. We knew we were going to try and feed the ball inside to Sam.”

A 5-0 Farragut run to begin the third quarter build the lead to 48-27, but Science Hill battled back behind three 3-point baskets from guard and UT-Chattanooga signee Josh Odem, who ended with a game-high 23 points.

Defensive pressure from the burgundy and gold-clad team forced a handful of Admirals turnovers, as the FHS backcourt was without senior point guard Jonathan Moore (knee injury).

Science Hill guard Chris Smith, another Division 1 college prospect according to Dodgen, finished with 22 points.

Watson entered the fourth quarter with three fouls and finished with four. “I think we got in a little bit of foul trouble, then we got a little tight where we started not taking care of the ball,” Dodgen said.

After a pair of missed Farragut free throws, the Hilltoppers closed within two after R.J. Jackson’s two free throws with 32 seconds left.

But Warnock, who finished with 10 points, calmly knocked down two free throws at the 22.6 second mark for a 78-74 Admirals lead.

Other FHS scorers were Bolen and Landon Hunley with seven each, Wayman McLaughlin six, Jester five and Reese Browning two points.

Clark praised other Admirals, including point guard McLaughlin. “I thought Wayman played great, picked up pretty much where we left off with [Moore],” he said. “A lot of guys came off the bench and hit big shots.”

Against KD-B, Watson led the Admirals with 19 points followed by Mixer with 11.

Ahead 31-30 at halftime, Farragut came out in the second half “and for two minutes we didn’t score, the difference in the ballgame,” Dodgen said.

Dodgen said Moore “jammed” his knee during the Dobyns-Bennett game, and although “nothing was torn, nothing ripped,” the coach added, “I’m not sure how long he’s going to be out.”


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