’Toppers looking to run table

Douglas Fritz • Feb 23, 2012 at 10:20 PM

For many teams, the level of success for a season will be determined in the next few days.

Regional basketball tournaments begin today across Tennessee, and all teams have an eye on earning berths in the sectionals — which are a one-game shot at reaching the state tournament.

Girls get things started with quarterfinal action tonight while the boys play their quarterfinal games Saturday. All games begin at 7 p.m. and will be played at the home sites of the higher-seeded teams.

For teams who make it to the semifinal round, those games will be played at Cherokee’s gym in Rogersville (1-AAA), Chuckey-Doak High School in Afton (1-AA) and Chuckey-Doak Middle School (1-A). Any tournament could have a site change if all four teams from one district reach the semifinals.

For a complete list of matchups and records, please see the Scoreboard page.

Here’s a tourney-by-tourney look at what to expect:

-1-AAA — It starts with Science Hill and should finish with the Hilltoppers.

They have been the area’s best team wire to wire, and there’s no evidence to suggest it will change in the region.

Morristown East might have been a threat to the Hilltoppers, but the Hurricanes lost Aaron Wheeler to a season-ending injury a couple of weeks ago. Wheeler was averaging 21 points, eight rebounds, and had 42 points against Knox Bearden this season.

With King College signee James Fields, Cherokee has a chance to reach the finals. However, the Chiefs finished third in the district tournament.

District 2-AAA champion Sevier County is well-coached, but probably doesn’t have the horses to be a major title threat.

Favorite: Science Hill.

Predicted winner: Science Hill.

Best bet for first-round upset: Dobyns-Bennett over Sevier County.

Darkhorse: Cherokee.

- 1-AA — People have talked throughout the season about how good the Three Rivers Conference is, but now it’s time to prove it.

By winning the district title in come-from-behind fashion over Sullivan East, Unicoi County earned the role of favorite. The Blue Devils have played very good defense of late, which can make a team a very tough out at tournament time.

Sullivan East figures to have a good shot at reaching the finals, but the Patriots may have to deal with District 2-AA champion South Greene in the semifinals. However, the Rebels went 0-4 against Three Rivers teams this season.

An intriguing first-round matchup has Sullivan North taking on Greeneville. The Raiders defeated Unicoi in the regular season and then lost by just two (42-40) before a 33-point blowout in the district semifinals. Greeneville has been up and down, handing Science Hill one of its two losses (58-57) but also losing to the Hilltoppers by 46 points.

Favorite: Unicoi County

Predicted winner: Unicoi County

Best bet for first-round upset: Sullivan North over Greeneville.

Darkhorse: Greeneville.

- 1-A — Generally speaking, District 1 teams have their way with District 2.

That should be the case this year because there simply isn’t a dominant team in District 2, and all of the District 1 teams have had their moments of being very strong this year.

Hampton earned the role of favorite by beating Cloudland late in the regular season, and in the district final. But this is a story that may not have been completely written yet.

And University High, which lost by a combined total of only seven points in two games against Hampton, can’t be counted out of the mix.

District 2-A champion Cosby started the season 3-11, but has rebounded with a 10-4 run — coinciding with the return from injury of player of the year Tate Parton. However, the Eagles don’t really have a signature win.

Favorite: Hampton.

Predicted winner: Cloudland.

Best bet for first-round upset: Unaka over Cosby.

Darkhorse: University High.

- 1-AAA girls — Undefeated Science Hill would be heavily favored regardless, but that role is even more prominent because District 2 has been ravaged by injuries.

Six players went down with season-ending ACL injuries, crushing a once-powerful league.

At the top, District 2-AAA champion Morristown East lost Leslie Berquist to an ACL late in the season. The post player was averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.

East should still have enough firepower to handle a home quarterfinal matchup with Daniel Boone, but the Lady Trailblazers likely won’t go away without a fight.

Morristown West lost its starting point guard, limiting the Lady Trojans chances of advancing in the postseason.

Favorite: Science Hill.

Predicted winner: Science Hill.

Best bet for first-round upset: Sullivan South over Seymour.

Darkhorse: Tennessee High.

- 1-AA girls — Unicoi County and Grainger appear to be headed for a region title showdown.

The Lady Blue Devils beat Grainger 65-55 in November, but both teams enter the region red hot. The District 2-AA champion Lady Grizzlies have won 26 games in a row.

And since losing three straight after Christmas, Unicoi County won 12 of 13 and earned the District 1 title.

However, there are some other intriguing pieces to this puzzle. Elizabethton defeated Unicoi twice this season, and eliminated Grainger in the region twice in the last three years by margins of 36 and 31 points.

Chuckey-Doak made it to the District 2 final, but hasn’t matched up well against Unicoi County — losing by 33 and 15 points.

South Greene has beaten Elizabethton twice, and played a rugged schedule overall.

Favorite: Unicoi County.

Predicted winner: Unicoi County.

Best bet for a first-round upset: Sullivan East over Chuckey-Doak.

Darkhorse: Elizabethton.

- 1-A girls — Cloudland looms over the rest of the field.

The Lady Highlanders are undefeated against Class A teams this season, and should be able to muscle their way to a region title.

Hampton is Cloudland’s biggest threat, but size is a still a major issue for the Lady Bulldogs.

Just the like the boys, District 1 should rule. However, Unaka faces a tough first-round matchup against Cosby, which is 23-3 but hasn’t played a particularly tough schedule while the Lady Rangers have been seriously tested.

Favorite: Cloudland.

Predicted winner: Cloudland.

Best bet for a first-round upset: Unaka over Cosby.

Darkhorse: North Greene.

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