Scotty Hopson on winning the Pilot Rocky Top League
This time, Hopson made sure there was a happy ending, scoring a team-high 40 points and making a key defensive stop to lead the News Sentinel to a 127-122 win over DeRoyal Industries (4-3).
Hopson went to the free-throw line with 24.7 seconds left and the News Sentinel (6-1) up 124-122.
"It's a one-and-one free throw situation,'' public address announcer Brian "BT" Tate announced to the packed Bearden High School gym. "It's pretty familiar.''
Against Michigan State in the NCAA tournament Elite Eight, Hopson hit a free throw to tie the game at 69-69 with 11 seconds left but missed the second. UT failed to get back on defense, and the Spartans got the ball inside, leading to a game-winning trip to the free-throw line.
Hopson, who said he has been shooting between 500 and 700 free throws daily, made the first free throw Thursday night, but again, he missed the second.
That's where the script changed.
Hopson intercepted the pass and headed downcourt. Again, he was fouled, but this time Hopson hit both ends of the one-and-one free throw situation with 3.9 seconds left to secure the game.
"You know I thought about the Michigan State game, but this time I was going to make sure I got back and got a defensive stop after missing the free throw,'' Hopson said. "This was another game out here that's preparing me for big SEC games.''
Former UT star Dane Bradshaw said it was good to see Hopson rise to the occasion.
"The thing that was impressive is Scotty struggled to stop Jordan (McRae, 42 points) all night, but in the end he helped on Melvin's drive and then he recovered to get out and make that steal,'' Bradshaw said. "It was textbook.''
It was a special win for News Sentinel small forward Michael Blue, too.
The former Bearden star with the 50-inch vertical leap scored 20 points, including three key baskets in the paint down the stretch.
"I wasn't able to play in the championship game last year because I was attending the funeral of my stepfather (Michael Yancey),'' said Blue, a 2004 Bearden graduate in the process of setting up workouts with NBA D-League teams. "I thought about him all day, and I'm dedicating this win to him.''
Bradshaw said Blue's play was pivotal.
"It's not fair that great athletes like Michael don't get the same amount of attention as some of us UT guys,'' Bradshaw said. "That's another great thing about this league; it gives the guys who aren't on ESPN a chance to prove they can play with these guys.''
J.P. Primm had 30 points for the News Sentinel and Bradshaw scored 17.
Lincoln Memorial University's Darryl Garret had 27 points, former Lee College All-American Brad Harris had 19, as did UT center Brian Williams.
"I think everyone on our team wanted it pretty bad; most of our core guys from last year were back on the team,'' said News Sentinel coach Zane Duncan, referring to Hopson, Bradshaw and Blue. "Dane took charge on the floor, Scotty made some big shots in the clutch and Michael Blue was huge tonight.''