'Toppers to face Melrose in Arby's opener
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BRISTOL — After a one-year absence, Science Hill returned to the Arby’s Classic — and stepped right back into the tradition of a tough draw.
Memphis Melrose will be the Hilltoppers’ first opponent in the 30th annual event at Viking Hall. Science Hill will play Melrose at 7 p.m. on Dec. 26.
“It doesn’t really matter who you get,” said Hilltoppers’ head coach Ken Cutlip. “It’s always a tough draw. At least we won’t have to worry about a contrast in styles.”
In another blind draw for the first round, announced at the Arby’s restaurant on Volunteer Parkway on Sunday, Sullivan East will battle defending champion Christ School of Arden, N.C. That game will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 27.
“What can you say?” said East head coach John Dyer. “We’re going to line up and do our absolute best. When you play teams like that, you have nothing to lose. We will play like underdogs and play with heart.”
Also scheduled for Dec. 26, Tennessee High drew Laurel (Md.) Princeton Day Academy. Abindgon, Va., will play Mentor, Ohio, and Oak Ridge will battle Virginia Episcopal. Gate City, Va., will play Urspring, Germany, and Cherokee will battle Tabernacle Baptist.
In other Dec. 27 first-round games, Dobyns-Bennett gets Lithonia (Ga.) Martin Luther King while Father Henry Carr of Canada will play the Gate City-Urspring winner, and Lilburn (Ga.) Berkmar will battle the Cherokee-Tabernacle winner.
Science Hill missed last year’s Arby’s Classic because it traveled to Hawaii for a tournament.
“If I had my choice, I’d be back in Hawaii,” said Cutlip, reminiscing about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “But the Arby’s provides one of the best environments for basketball in the country. It’s not the top tournament, but it may be the best tournament for environment in the entire country.”
Melrose won the Arby’s in 2009, and will enter this year’s event with plenty of size. They have three 6-5 players, including Memphis commitment Markel Crawford. Point guard K.C. Goodwin has committed to Southern Illinois.
“It is a good matchup as far as what we could potentially face if we advance down the road,” said Cutlip.
As for Christ School, it is led by former Science Hill standout Shannon Hale. The 6-8 post has signed with Alabama. Also back is former Science Hill standout Jaylen Allen, a Wofford signee, and 6-3 John Elmore, who is getting looks from Alabama, Tennessee and Wake Forest.
The tournament runs from Dec. 26-31. Session tickets are $10. Tournament passes are $50.
For a complete first-round schedule, see the scoreboard page.