Lady 'Toppers set for late-season challenge

Douglas Fritz • Jan 21, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Science Hill girls head basketball coach Darrell Barnwell didn't just front-load his schedule with tough games.

Here in late January, the Lady Hilltoppers are looking at potentially one of their biggest challenges of the season. They travel to Louisville this weekend to play Mercy and Marion County, Ky.

“We knew we had to schedule some tough games and really put the kids in tough situations,” said Barnwell. “We tried to spread it throughout the year, so we didn't have all of the tough games at one time. We played CAK and Knox Webb, and then went to Middle Tennessee to play Smyrna and Riverdale. Then we went to Naples, Fla.

“Now we've had three weeks or so before we take on national level competition late in the season. So we tried to schedule throughout to keep us sharp, playing at a high level.”

It's important because the Hilltoppers don't have the built-in advantage of a team like defending Class AAA state champion Murfreesboro Riverdale, which can get state-level competition in its own league. Without this weekend's event in Kentucky, Science Hill would have gone into the heart of the postseason two months removed from Riverdale-type challenges.

Not that Marion County is as good as Riverdale, but the Lady Knights can state their case. They are 21-0 and ranked No. 7 in the nation by MaxPreps. They boast Kentucky signee Makayla Epps, who is averaging 22.3 points, 5.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. The senior is 5-foot-10, but plays the point guard position.

“She is one of the top players in the country,” said Barnwell.

Before the Hilltoppers meet Epps and company, they will take on Mercy — which lost 71-56 to Marion on Saturday. However, that was Marion's closest game of the season.

“Mercy is solid, and one of the better teams in Kentucky,” said Barnwell. “And we have to play on their home floor, and we've heard it's a really tough place to play.”

Science Hill will battle Mercy at 9 p.m. Friday, and then play Marion on Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Lady Hilltoppers carry a record of 19-2 into tonight's Big Eight Conference road game against Volunteer.

— — —

Boys basketball games of the week — (Today) Daniel Boone at Dobyns-Bennett, Elizabethton at Unicoi County, Sullivan East at Sullivan North, Hampton at Unaka, (Friday) Elizabethton at Sullivan East, University High at Hampton.

Red-hot Daniel Boone gets to see how far it has come. The Trailblazers lost by 34 points to the Indians in early December before embarking on a 10-1 streak. …

Elizabethton will get a chance to prove it is championship worthy while also trying to take a giant step toward one of the Three Rivers' two first-round byes for the district tournament. …

University High got hit with injury adversity and a 27-point loss to Cloudland. But after the dust settled, the Junior Bucs still entered the week tied for first place in the Watauga Valley Conference.

— — —

Boys player of the week — Marcus Taylor of University High.

The Junior Bucs' standout rang up another big week of scoring, leading his team to a pair of victories.

Taylor broke loose for 31 points in Monday's 60-35 win over Happy Valley. He came back with another 30-point effort in a 58-56 victory Tuesday against KACHEA.

— — —

Boys pick of the week — Hampton 66, University High 57.

The Bulldogs are getting healthy, and their bite is getting worse than their bark.

Picks record: 6-0.

— — —

Hampton uses a three-game winning streak, and a win over Cloudland, to move into this week's Prep Top 10.

Team W-L Prv

1. Science Hill 25-2 1

2. Sullivan East 19-6 2

3. Elizabethton 14-5 3

4. Dobyns-Bennett 14-4 4

5. Daniel Boone 15-6 5

6. Greeneville 17-7 7

7. Tennessee High 14-10 9

8. Hampton 14-6 nr

9. Cloudland 13-8 6

10. University High 14-6 10

— — —

Prep signings: Unicoi County will send another softball player to the college ranks.

Senior catcher Ashley Starnes will make it official with Walters State on Wednesday. The signing will take place at 10 a.m. at the high school.

— — —

Girls basketball games of the week — (Today) Daniel Boone at Dobyns-Bennett, Elizabethton at Unicoi County, Hampton at Unaka, (Thursday) South Greene at Cloudland, (Friday) Science Hill at Louisville (Ky.) Mercy, Volunteer at Daniel Boone, Elizabethton at Sullivan East, Unicoi County at Happy Valley, (Saturday) Science Hill vs. Marion Co., Ky., at Louisville.

Unicoi County has a big week, taking on a pair of big rivals and trying to get in the championship battle with Elizabethton. A Lady Cyclones' win would clinch the Three Rivers Conference title. …

Cloudland has been on a roll of late, but faces a mighty challenge Thursday.

— — —

Girls player of the week — Tianna Tarter of Science Hill.

The Lady Hilltoppers' point guard helped her team pick up a couple of Big Eight Conference victories.

Tarter soared for 21 points on Wednesday as Science Hill pounded Sullivan South 81-49. She came back with 13 points in a 65-57 victory over Tennessee High on Friday.

— — —

Girls pick of the week — Unicoi County 65, Happy Valley 60.

The Lady Blue Devils ran away for an easy victory on their home court, but Happy Valley should put up more of a scrap this time around.

Picks record: 6-0.

— — —

South Greene, Unicoi County and Cloudland move up the ladder in this week's girls rankings:

Team W-L Prv

1. Science Hill 19-2 1

2. Elizabethton 17-3 2

3. Tennessee High 17-4 3

4. South Greene 16-6 5

5. Hampton 16-5 4

6. Dobyns-Bennett 14-6 6

7. Unicoi County 11-7 9

8. Sullivan South 13-7 7

9. Cloudland 13-9 10

10. Volunteer 14-9 8

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos