Wadsworth played through contact to hit a winning shot with eight seconds left and Dobyns-Bennett survived a last-second 3-point attempt from Morristown East in Tuesday night’s Region 1-AAA boys basketball semifinals at Daniel Boone’s Bobby Snyder Gym.
Wadsworth’s winning bucket, on an assist by Marae Foreman, lifted the Indians to a dramatic 59-58 victory.
After catching the ball down low, Wadsworth was determined to finish the play.
“Marae caught me in the low post. I was able to get it, turn around and finish strong after the contact,” Wadsworth said. “Coming in, we knew Morristown East had two tough senior guards that were hard to stop. We had to come in with the mindset to compete, look for stops and to play it out.”
The upset-minded Hurricanes fell just short when Cameron Rymer missed a potential game-winning 3- pointer at the buzzer.
A 3-point shot determined D-B’s fate in the Region 1-AAA semifinals for a second straight year. The previous season, the Indians’ Chase Jenkins hit a buzzer-beater against Jefferson County.
The Indians (30-3) will take on Sevier County, a 69-49 winner over Science Hill, in Thursday’s championship game. Both semifinal winners advanced to the sectional round.
Dobyns-Bennett hit the 30-win milestone for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
“It was just an unbelievable game and it’s unfortunate both teams can’t advance,” Tribe coach Chris Poore said. “Mello and Charlie (Browder) did an unbelievable job of carrying us tonight on a night when Marae was struggling a little bit. But down the stretch, Marae adjusted his game to run the offense.
“That was just a tough, gritty play at the end. Marae found the guy who the play wasn’t really designed to go to, and Mello found a way to get the bucket when I don’t know if anybody else in the gym could have scored that bucket.”
Rymer led the Hurricanes (22-10) with 17 points. Connor Jordan had 15 and Micah Simpson added nine.
But the Indians dominated inside with Browder adding 16 points. Abiah Releford totaled 11 points and Foreman ended with eight for the Tribe.
The game turned to some degree when D-B was able to get Braden Ilic, East’s 6-foot-8 post to foul out in the fourth quarter.
“It was a little déjà vu from Jeff County. I don’t know why, but we like hurting people’s hearts and stressing people out,” Browder said. “It was a heck of a finish. Mello and I attacked and that set us up the rest of the game. We got 23 (Ilic) and 33 (David Ellison) in foul trouble. Even though they’re long, they couldn’t do much or get extra fouls.”
The game was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout. East led 17-13 at the end of one quarter and Ellison’s tip-in with a second left in the second gave the ’Canes a 31-30 halftime lead. The second half seesawed before two Foreman free throws gave D-B its biggest lead at 57-52. Jordan sparked East’s comeback with two buckets and an assist to Layne Atkins for a 58-57 lead before the dramatic ending.
“I’m really proud of our team’s gutsy performance and how everyone who showed up tonight got to see a great battle,” ’Canes coach Ryan Collins said. “Hats off to Dobyns-Bennett. I thought both teams executed their game plans. Unfortunately, we fell just one point short tonight, but I can’t be prouder of how hard my kids played and how well they executed.”
BEARS BOOT ’TOPPERS
The Smoky Bears (23-6) led by 19 at the end of the first quarter and rolled over the four-time defending region champions. Sevier County hit 6 of 7 shots from the field in the first quarter, while Science Hill went just 1-for-8 with seven turnovers.
Wes Maples scored 18 points to lead Sevier County. Camden Burden and Camden McElhaney added 14 each.
Science Hill had eliminated Sevier County from the postseason each of the previous three seasons.
Drew Morrison and Jake Matherne each finished with 10 points and six rebounds to lead Science Hill (17-17).