Proceeding with the understanding that a team or two, here or there, won’t sprout their butterfly wings until late February, here’s a look at how far some of the top area squads might go based on their current bodies of work.
State Tournament Threats
Science Hill boys — The Hilltoppers likely won’t have an easy time in the district, and adding Sevier County to the mix makes the region even more challenging. The next level boasts threats like Maryville, Oak Ridge and Bearden. To get to Murfreesboro, Science Hill will have to put together three weeks of its best basketball.
Science Hill girls — The Lady Hilltoppers would be No. 1 in the region if such rankings existed, so they are currently favored to get to the sectional. But the sectional level is absolutely loaded with Bearden, Maryville, Oak Ridge, Farragut, Heritage and emerging Powell all in the fight. Four of those tough teams won’t make it that far.
Sullivan Central girls — The Lady Cougars face a regional threat with Grainger and South Greene potentially standing in the way. If they navigate the region, a sectional battle with Northview Academy, Alcoa or Gatlinburg-Pittman could be winnable at home or on the road.
Cloudland girls — The Lady Highlanders may need to handle North Greene at both the district and regional levels. A home sectional game against Wartburg, Oneida or Tellico Plains would be a reasonable challenge, but a road win would be tough.
Sullivan South boys —Avoiding Greeneville before the region championship is a good idea. If the Rebels get to the sectional, traditional powerhouse Fulton awaits while Alcoa and Carter also appear to be obstacles.
Dobyns-Bennett boys — The door is open for two 1-AAA teams to reach this round, and the Indians have proven — when they play at their best like they have done twice against Science Hill — they are in the mix.
Hampton boys —Winning the district to potentially stay out of Cosby’s bracket in the region could make it a path of least resistance to the sectional — where threats like Oneida and Harriman await.
Volunteer’s Dakota Hicks has spent more time on the court — on his back — than any player in Falcons history.
The 6-foot-1 senior has taken 35 charges heading into Tuesday’s game against Science Hill.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Volunteer coach Mike Poe. “It’s good to have someone to anchor the backside of your defense. Someone like that can cover for a lot of mistakes made by other players.”
Sullivan South has enjoyed its share of milestone accomplishments this season.
The school can boast of three players reaching the 1,000-point mark. Senior guards Ben Diamond and Cole Layne both accomplished the feat for the boys’ team. Diamond’s accomplishment is especially impressive because he made it in a little over two seasons. He missed all but 10 games of his sophomore year because of a broken arm.
On the girls’ side, senior guard Alex Harris reached the prestigious club earlier this season.
Cleveland rolled to the TSSAA Class AAA dual wrestling title with a 43-18 win over Wilson Central in Saturday’s championship match.
Pigeon Forge won the TSSAA Class A-AA title 43-26 over Fairview.
The Region 1-AAA individual tournament will be held this coming Saturday at Volunteer in Church Hill. Qualifiers advance to the state tournament, which will be held Feb. 20-22 in Franklin.
Boys highlight games
Tuesday — Volunteer at Science Hill; Dobyns-Bennett at Cherokee; Tennessee High at David Crockett; Sullivan South at Elizabethton
Thursday — Hampton at Cloudland
The entire Big 7 Conference schedule on Tuesday matters.
Science Hill will try to wrap up an outright title by defeating Volunteer. If the Hilltoppers are upset, Dobyns-Bennett can tie Science Hill for the title with a win over Cherokee. The ’Toppers will remain the top seed because of their season sweep of Crockett, which split with D-B.
The top two finishers in the regular season get a bye into the district semifinals and an automatic berth in the region. Tennessee High still has a shot at one of those byes. The Vikings would need to beat Crockett, have Cherokee upset D-B and then win a coin toss against the Indians on Wednesday.
Both Tennessee High and D-B have a win over Science Hill, and they split their head-to-head regular season meetings.
BOYS TOP 10
Dobyns-Bennett used its upset of No. 1 Science Hill to move up two spots to No. 4 in this week’s rankings
|1. Science Hill
|2. Sullivan South
|3. Tennessee High
|5. David Crockett
|7. Daniel Boone
|9. Sullivan East
|10. Unicoi County
Girls highlight games
Thursday — North Greene at Unaka; Hampton at Cloudland
Friday — Sullivan Central at Dobyns-Bennett
North Greene and Cloudland, both 8-1 in the Watauga Valley with one game remaining, will try to settle the conference title issue. ...
The Lady Cougars face a rematch of their closest win of the season. They beat the Indians 40-39 in Blountville on Dec. 17. Central carries an 11-game winning streak into the rematch.
GIRLS TOP 10
Daniel Boone knocked off Dobyns-Bennett and jumped past the Lady Indians into the No. 3 spot for this week’s rankings.
|1. Sullivan Central
|2. Science Hill
|3. Daniel Boone
|6. Sullivan East
|8. David Crockett
|10. Johnson County