Who has the most consistent boys’ basketball program in Northeast Tennessee in regards to postseason success?
If the answer was “Science Hill,” it would be incorrect. The correct answer is Cloudland, and the Highlanders appear to be on the track toward another good postseason run.
Cloudland has been to the Class A state tournament five times in the last seven years, including two in a row.
Fueled by the oh-so-close taste of a one-point loss to McEwen in last year’s state tournament, the Highlanders have navigated a very difficult schedule to emerge in January with a record of 11-5.
“We’ve played a real tough schedule,” said head coach Brandon Carpenter, who is in his third season. “We lost four games to Knoxville area teams (Webb, CAK twice, and Bearden). We kind of let two of those get away from us, but it was good for us going into league play and the tournaments.
“I feel like we are battle-tested from our schedule, which is probably only second to Science Hill in the area. We hope it will help us late in the year.”
Cloudland’s best wins include one over Sullivan South, which is tied for second place in the Big Eight Conference. Also, the Highlanders have taken down Johnson County (twice), Cherokee, David Crockett, Virginia High and Cleveland.
A big part of the success has been the play of seniors Dylan McClellan, Zac Potter, Taylor Whitehead and Devin Whitehead.
“Dylan and Zac are just good players and scorers,” said Carpenter. “Taylor is just a competitor at point guard. He sets the tone for us, offensively and defensively.
“Devin has really stepped up his game this year. And Mason Carnett, the other starter, is just solid. I always know what I will get from him.”
Sophomores Zac Benfield, Matt Houston and Logan Russell have also played key roles.
“This year has been kind of a building year because we are doing things we couldn’t do last year,” said Carpenter.
This is a big week for the Highlanders, who play host to league foes Unaka (today) and University High (Friday).
“Any time you play one of the league teams, it will be a tough game,” said Carpenter. “But we are looking forward to getting to play at home. We’ve only played three at home so far.”
Like any coach at this time of year, Carpenter said his team has a long way to go.
“We tell our guys every day in practice we look like a third- or fourth-place team,” said Carpenter. “We want to improve all areas of the game, including free throw shooting and rebounding. Defensive intensity has been consistent.”
Boys basketball games of the week — (Today) Daniel Boone at David Crockett, Unaka at Cloudland, (Wednesday) Sullivan East at Abingdon, Va., (Friday) Science Hill at David Crockett, Sullivan South at Dobyns-Bennett, Johnson County at Sullivan East, University High at Cloudland, (Saturday) Dobyns-Bennett at Greeneville.
David Crockett will have arguably its most challenging week of the season, taking on its biggest rival before trying to match up with Northeast Tennessee’s best team. …
Sullivan East gets a tough non-conference challenge before meeting the scrappy Longhorns.
Boys’ player of the week — Marcus Taylor of University High.
It was a tough loss to David Crockett, but Taylor did his level best to pull his team to a victory. The junior guard broke loose for 38 points in a 79-74 decision.
Boys’ pick of the week — Cloudland 64, University High 62.
The Junior Bucs have stood their ground in league play, but this is probably the toughest battle they will face all season — traveling to Roan Mountain to take on a good team.
Picks record: 4-0.
Science Hill is still way above everybody else in this week’s Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Science Hill 21-2 1
2. Sullivan East 15-6 2
3. Elizabethton 12-5 3
4. Dobyns-Bennett 10-4 4
5. Daniel Boone 12-6 6
6. Cloudland 11-5 7
7. Greeneville 12-6 8
8. Sullivan South 9-8 nr
9. Tennessee High 12-7 5
10. University High 12-4 9
Girls’ basketball games of the week — (Today) Dobyns-Bennett at Tennessee High, Sullivan South at Volunteer, Unaka at Cloudland, (Friday) Sullivan South at Dobyns-Bennett, Volunteer at Tennessee High, Elizabethton at Happy Valley, Hampton at North Greene.
It’s a big week in the Big Eight Conference for Volunteer, Sullivan South and Tennessee High as each team faces key league contests. …
Happy Valley gets its first shot at Elizabethton, a game where the Lady Warriors are usually tough on their home court.
Girls’ player of the week — Reazyn DeMoss of Elizabethton.
In Friday’s 62-35 win over Sullivan East, DeMoss dominated in the paint and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
The senior came back the next night, hitting for 10 points and 10 rebounds in an 88-35 whipping of Clinton.
n Girls’ pick of the week — Hampton 55, North Greene 50.
The Lady Bulldogs have won nine of their last 10 games, including a tough road win Saturday against Unicoi County. That momentum should help them overcome another road challenge.
Picks record: 4-0.
Volunteer uses a win over Dobyns-Bennett to return to the top 10 in this week’s girls’ rankings:
Team W-L Prv
1. Science Hill 15-2 1
2. Elizabethton 14-3 2
3. Tennessee High 13-3 3
4. Hampton 14-4 5
5. South Greene 13-5 8
6. Sullivan South 12-5 7
7. Volunteer 14-7 nr
8. Dobyns-Bennett 11-4 4
9. North Greene 13-5 6
10. Unicoi County 10-7 10