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Science Hill has enjoyed state success

Douglas Fritz • Mar 12, 2012 at 11:40 PM

As Science Hill prepares for its 26th appearance in the state basketball tournament, it will continue a long-standing tradition.

The Hilltoppers made their first big splash in 1967, and made a lot of noise in 1968 and 1973. But it was 25 years ago when things began to change dramatically. That’s when Science Hill made its first appearance under Coach George Pitts.

Nobody expected the Hilltoppers to challenge for a state championship as just winning one game at that level would have been considered quite an achievement. Science Hill pushed the game into overtime, but Dyersburg pulled out a 52-50 win over a heartbroken bunch of Hilltoppers.

In 1988, Science Hill marched right back to the state quarterfinals, making back-to-back appearances for the third time in school history. However, the ball would once again fail to bounce the Hilltoppers’ way. Once again the game went into overtime, and once again the Hilltoppers lost. This time it was 42-36 to Oak Ridge.

Nobody could have seen it at the time, but those difficult losses were laying the groundwork for the greatest stretch of basketball in Science Hill history.

It didn’t happen immediately. Science Hill was punched out in the region semifinals in 1989.

What followed the next year will never be forgotten by Science Hill fans. Led by senior Orville Whittington and sophomore Shane Williams, and a host of other standouts, the Hilltoppers conquered the state in 1990.

Underlining the importance of those overtime losses in 1987 and 1988, Science Hill drew on every ounce of desire it had to record a 79-76 triple-overtime win over a giant Memphis Christian Brothers team in the quarterfinals. The Hilltoppers simply weren’t going to lose in overtime in the quarterfinals again.

Boosted by the momentum of that win — and somehow not drained from the experience — Science Hill tamed future NBA player David Vaughn and Nashville Whites Creek. The Hilltoppers shocked the state with a 74-66 win in the semifinals.

It can’t be said the finals were easy, but few people expected Science Hill to have trouble with Chattanooga Tyner. The Hilltoppers won 69-52 to earn their first gold ball.

Science Hill returned to the finals in 1991, losing a heartbreaking 55-54 decision to Memphis Hamilton when Williams’ shot in the foul lane at the buzzer drew back iron and wouldn’t fall.

But again, it was a loss that would spur more greatness. Science Hill won the 1994 state title, and had its second shot at back-to-back crowns in 1995. This time the Hilltoppers pounded Chattanooga Brainerd 77-56 to make school history.

Before their remarkable run ended with a stunning district quarterfinal loss to Daniel Boone in 2001, Science Hill reached the state tournament eight consecutive years from 1993-2000.

In the decade of 1990 to 2000, Science Hill started with a 12-2 record in the state tournament, and finished 12-7 after five straight years of one and done.

With Mike Poe at the helm, the Hilltoppers made it back to the championship game in 2002, beating Shelbyville and Nashville Stratford before losing to rising power Memphis White Station in the finals. It was the first of three straight state titles for White Station.

Science Hill hasn’t won at the state since beating Stratford. Its only appearance since 2002 was a 60-50 loss to Walker Valley in 2009.

Over the last 25 years, Science Hill has played in 25 state tournament games and owns a stout record of 14-11.

Game No. 26 is scheduled for Thursday as the Hilltoppers will go up against Wilson Central, a relatively new school in Lebanon. Wilson has won two girls state basketball titles, but has just one state semifinal appearance on the boys’ side. Wilson’s last state tournament trip came in 2005.

Here’s a look at Science Hill’s history in the state tournament, including sectional appearances (note: sectional tournament results are included in 1999 and 2000, when the TSSAA had a different postseason format):

2012

Class AAA substate

Maryville (W, 69-60)

State

vs. Wilson Central (Thursday, 12:45 p.m., CDT)

———

2011

Class AAA substate

Knoxville West (L, 72-67)

———

2009

Class AAA substate

Oak Ridge (W, 56-38)

State

Walker Valley (L, 60-50)

———

2008

Class AAA substate

Oak Ridge (L, 55-36)

———

2007

Class AAA substate

Maryville (L, 57-54)

2005

Class AAA substate

Oak Ridge (L, 79-65)

2004

Class AAA substate

Clinton (L, 66-59)

2002

Class AAA substate

William Blount (W, 73-51)

State

Shelbyville (W, 65-44)

Nashville Stratford (W, 65-57)

Championship

Mem. White Station (L, 59-45)

2000

Class AAA sectional

Maryville (W, 71-49)

Oak Ridge (W, 80-77)

State

Mem. White Station (L, 64-46)

1999

Class AAA sectional

Dobyns-Bennett (W, 59-56)

Oak Ridge (W, 57-43)

State

White County (L, 52-45)

1998

Class AAA substate

Oak Ridge (W, 66-62)

State

Mem. White Station (L, 49-44)

1997

Class AAA substate

Knox Bearden (W, 79-26)

State

Bartlett (L, 62-51)

1996

Class AAA substate

Knox Bearden (W, 55-49)

State

Murf. Oakland (L, 66-45)

1995

Class AAA substate

Knox Karns (W, 97-62)

State

Lebanon (W, 81-60)

Mem. East (W, 71-68)

Championship

Chatt. Brainerd (W, 77-56)

1994

Class AAA substate

Knox Powell (W, 112-46)

State

Knox Bearden (W, 66-63)

Montgomery Bell Academy (W, 83-70)

Championship

Nashville Overton (W, 79-62)

1993

Class AAA substate

Knox Bearden (W, 61-46)

State

Nashville Overton (W, 71-57)

Columbia Central (W, 74-68)

1992

Class AAA substate

Maryville (L, 56-53)

1991

Class AAA substate

Clinton (W, 94-59)

State

Nashville Whites Creek (W, 55-54)

Obion County (W, 106-80)

Championship

Hamilton (L, 55-54)

1990

Class AAA substate

Sevier County (W, 78-76)

State

Mem. Christian Brothers (W, 79-76, 3OT)

Nashville Whites Creek (W, 74-66)

Championship

Chatt. Tyner (W, 69-52)

1988

Class AAA substate

Knox Bearden (W, 69-57)

State

Oak Ridge (L, 42-36, OT)

1987

Class AAA substate

Knoxville Halls (W, 72-65)

State

Dyersburg (L, 52-50, OT)

1985

Class AAA substate

Knox Karns (L, 60-44)

1982

Class AAA substate

Knox Bearden (W, 59-49)

State

Memphis Central (L, 50-44)

1978

Class AAA substate

Knox Farragut (L, 63-61)

1976

Class AAA substate

Oak Ridge (W, 76-65)

State

Haywood County (L, 72-48)

1974

Class L

Alcoa (L, 57-55)

1973

Class L

Oak Ridge (W, 42-41)

Chatt. Howard (W, 57-56)

Gallatin (L, 57-54)

1972

Nashville McGavock (L, 61-58)

1968

Oak Ridge (W, 68-46)

Bransford (W, 77-69)

George Carver (W, 77-73)

Championship

Chatt. Riverside (L, 67-61)

1967

Woodstock (W, 87-58)

Nashville Stratford (W, 55-43)

Knoxville Holston (L, 45-41)

Third place

Chatt. Riverside (W, 47-40)

1954

Treadwell (L, 51-50)

1952

Dupont (L, 65-54)

Science Hill overall: 36-28 (40-28 counting sectional tournaments)

Longest Win Streak: 9

Longest Losing Streak: 5

— — —

And here’s a look at Cloudland’s state tournament results:

2012

Class A substate

Oneida (W, 64-51)

State

vs. McEwen (Thursday, 6 p.m., CDT)

2011

Class A substate

Jellico (W, 69-53)

State

Middleton (L, 52-37)

2010

Class A substate

Harriman (L, 49-39)

2009

Class A substate

Rockwood (W, 39-38)

State

Tenn. Temple (L, 64-50)

2007

Class A substate

Harriman (W, 50-47)

Culleoka (L, 55-33)

2006

Class A substate

Wartburg Central (W, 51-47)

State

Union City (L, 77-40)

1968

Mem. Frayser (W, 64-55)

Nashville Stratford (L, 66-48)

1966

Mem. Treadwell (L, 58-51)

Cloudland overall: 5-7

Longest Win Streak: 1

Longest Losing Streak: 2

— — —

It’s really hard to say exactly what a team gets when the drawings are held for the state tournament — just ask Cloudland’s girls.

As it turned out, the Lady Highlanders got the worst possible quarterfinal draw by getting Clay County. That’s because Clay went on to easily win the state-title game, beating district rival Jackson County 60-39 in the finals.

Cloudland had its chances in a 55-43 first-round loss to Clay. The Lady ‘Landers finished 32-5, and should gain some confidence from Clay’s strong showing in this year’s event.

With many of its key players returning, and with some good young players ready to get into the varsity mix, Cloudland could make a run at a Class A title again next year.