There's probably a fine line between soundly beating a team and running up the score.
From David Crockett's perspective, there's no doubt Science Hill crossed that line during Friday night's girls basketball game.
From Science Hill's perspective, hopes of earning a state championship won't be enhanced by taking it easy on anybody.
The Lady Hilltoppers led 76-5 at halftime, and went on to record a 104-10 victory. Crockett head coach Will Conley said Science Hill was still pressing with a 70-point lead.
“It just shows where we are with a level of respect,” said Conley. “What are you going to accomplish when you are up 60 or 70 points? Maybe you just wanted to score 100. OK, you did.”
In the first meeting between Science Hill and Crockett on Jan. 11, the Lady Hilltoppers won by a score of 77-27. This time, Hilltoppers' head coach Darrell Barnwell said Crockett just caught his team at the wrong time.
“It was probably the hardest all 12 of our kids have played,” said Barnwell. “Tuesday at Boone we didn't have that intensity in the first half. In the second half we did, and it carried over to the Crockett game.
“What we are trying to do right now is prepare our kids for the postseason, and get them to play with a high level of intensity and energy. We want to win the district and region, but we have a higher goal of winning a state championship.”
David Crockett athletic director Josh Kite said Science Hill showed a lack of respect for the game. His remarks were confined to the girls game because he said he didn't have the same feeling about the Hilltoppers' boys winning 103-32 on Friday.
Also, Kite said Science Hill football coach Stacy Carter had a much different approach in a similar situation in the fall. The Hilltoppers led Crockett in football 56-0 with 10:19 still remaining in the second quarter. The final score: 63-8.
“That's what people don't understand,” said Kite. “They say Science Hill runs the score up in every sport, but it isn't true. We could have gotten beaten worse in football.
“If Stacy had beaten us 200-0, it would have been different. But he found a way to beat us 63-8. I just don't see 104-10. That's awful. And for the basketball coach to say they're getting ready for the tournaments, Stacy's team did just fine. His team was ready for the playoffs.”
Carter pointed out there is a dilemma in a blowout situation.
“You worry about the injuries, and you don't want to put your second and third teams in there and tell them not to play,” said Carter. “You don't want to throw down-field bombs, but you don't want to be insulting and take a knee three times and punt. I see it both ways. Maryville took a knee going into halftime against us, and I just wished they had gone ahead and scored.”
Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner echoed Carter's sentiments.
“We could tell the girls to shoot left-handed or make 10 passes on every possession, but that just makes it a mockery to me,” said Turner.
Playing Crockett is just part of the task for the Lady Hilltoppers, and Turner said the team wants to do well.
“This whole season everybody expected us to be good,” said Turner. “We have a nationally ranked team, and we've tried to play a very tough schedule. We knew the league wasn't going to challenge us as much as we need to be challenged. And in league games, our girls hadn't been playing up to the level they are capable of playing.
“Darrell had been on them, and made some adjustments. They finally responded on Friday night, and it was the perfect storm. Crockett didn't play well and we played exceptionally well and exceptionally hard.
“People look at the score, and they want to put the blame on the team that had the big number of points. But we didn't press in the second half, and the clock ran continuously in the third and fourth quarters.”
Barnwell admitted his team was still pressing late in the second quarter, but added he only played his starters 13-14 minutes apiece. He said he played 10 kids in the first half, and all 12 players in the second half.
Kite, a former East Tennessee State University standout who played professional baseball, said once Science Hill got a comfortable lead things should have changed.
“This wasn't a Duke-North Carolina game where North Carolina gets up 25 points and keeps pressing because Duke might make a run,” said Kite. “They knew we wouldn't make a run. It was totally unprofessional.
“When it's 11-0 in baseball, you don't try to steal a base. You respect the game, and play the game the right way. I've been around Hall of Fame baseball coaches, and they respect the game.”
Kite added Science Hill may one day see the shoe on the other foot.
“There's a thing called karma, and it will come back and get you,” said Kite. “They said they play hard all four quarters to prepare for the state. If you are not prepared by now, there is a problem. And they were just coming back from Louisville where they played two powerhouses. That should get them ready for the state. They aren't getting any better playing us in the third and fourth quarters.
“There was nothing left to gain after the first quarter of that game. The dogs should have been called off after the first quarter. It's not the girls to blame, its the style of coaching.”
Both Kite and Conley said the Lady Pioneers' players took it hard.
“Let's be honest, these are 16- and 17-year old kids,” said Kite. “It can be demoralizing. Who wants to look at the scoreboard and see you've gotten beaten almost 100 points. And it's humiliating because we have a young team. I know this will stick with them. It's no fun for anyone. People can take pictures of the scoreboard, but they don't understand what the young girls are going through. I'm not happy with it.”
Crockett's girls did bounce back with a respectable 66-47 loss to Sullivan South on Saturday. Turner said that showed something positive about Crockett's girls.
“You only get better by how you respond,” said Turner. “Just by reading Coach Conley's comments, his girls played harder against South on Saturday night.”
Unfortunately for the Lady Pioneers, they will meet Science Hill again next week in the first round of the District 1-AAA tournament.
— — —
Greeneville wasn't on the state championship radar as it traveled to Franklin for the Class A-AA state dual wrestling tournament, but perhaps the radar was faulty.
“There were 24 people in the state of Tennessee who believed,” said Greeneville head coach Randy Shelton. “That was everybody who rode the bus with me. Even the parents weren't sure. People were telling us 'Good luck' and stuff, but most admitted they didn't think we could pull it off.
“We didn't need luck. Just like the guy who works the second shift: it was show up and do your job. We knew if everybody did their job we would be fine.”
Greeneville started its run Friday with a 39-31 win over Chattanooga Hixson. The Greene Devils followed it up a few hours later by knocking off Chattanooga East Ridge 44-36.
That set up an all-East Tennessee final against Pigeon Forge. The Greene Devils trailed heading into the final match, but had their main man on the mat: 113-pounder Jon Boatman. He made short work of Jacob Ruiter, pinning him in 57 seconds to give Greeneville a 36-34 win and touching off a celebration.
Shelton said Greeneville benefitted from the football team's early exit from the playoffs after back-to-back state titles.
“They had a little hurt feelings from football when they came up short,” said Shelton. “A lot of the football players are wrestlers, and they had something to prove.”
In Class AAA, Science Hill took a first-round 51-16 loss to Soddy-Daisy. The Hilltoppers lost 40-31 to Collierville in the consolation bracket.
Dobyns-Bennett lost to Clarksville before bouncing back to beat Cordova. The Indians were eliminated by Ravenwood.
Cleveland crushed Wilson Central 78-4 to claim the championship. Soddy-Daisy finished third.
— — —
Boys basketball games of the week — (Today) Cloudland at Unaka, (Thursday) Dobyns-Bennett at Science Hill, (Friday) University High at Unaka, Hampton at Cloudland.
Because of its upset loss to Sullivan South, the Big Eight Conference title is likely out of reach for Dobyns-Bennett. However, a win over its biggest rival would give the Indians some serious momentum for the postseason. ...
Cloudland has its work cut out as it seeks a Watauga Valley Conference championship. …
University High is still fighting to stay out of the District 1-A play-in game.
— — —
Co-boys players of the week — Zach Norwood of Elizabethton, and Ethan Rice of Unicoi County.
Norwood averaged 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals in victories over Sullivan North, Hampton and Happy Valley. His best game was a 19-point, seven-rebound, six-assist, three-steal effort against North on Monday.
Rice totaled 46 points in three victories for the Blue Devils. He had 18 points and hit the game-winning shot in a 46-44 win over Johnson County on Monday.
— — —
Boys pick of the week — Science Hill 67, Dobyns-Bennett 63.
The Indians were no match for the Hilltoppers in their first meeting, but they have likely closed the gap enough to make this a typical rival thriller.
Picks record: 7-0.
— — —
Unicoi County rode a four-game winning streak, and eight wins in 10 games, to power into the No. 9 spot in this week's Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Science Hill 28-2 1
2. Sullivan East 22-6 2
3. Dobyns-Bennett 18-5 3
4. Elizabethton 18-6 4
5. Daniel Boone 18-8 5
6. Greeneville 19-8 6
7. Tennessee High 17-10 7
8. Cloudland 18-8 9
9. Unicoi County 12-12 nr
10. Hampton 16-10 8
— — —
Girls basketball games of the week — (Today) Tennessee High at Dobyns-Bennett, Cloudland at Unaka, North Greene at Hampton, (Thursday) Dobyns-Bennett at Science Hill, (Friday) Johnson County at Unicoi County, Hampton at Cloudland.
The fate of the Watauga Valley Conference will be decided this week. Hampton and Cloudland each have one league loss, and both teams face a pair of challenges. …
Tennessee High can wrap up second place in the Big Eight by defeating the Lady Indians. …
Unicoi County can clinch the top seed for the District 1-AA tournament, and the Lady Blue Devils will play a team that hasn't won a league game all season. However, Johnson County lost by only two points against Unicoi just a week ago.
— — —
Girls player of the week — Tianna Tarter of Science Hill.
The Hilltoppers' junior point guard totaled 39 points in a pair of blowout wins.
Tarter had 22 points in Tuesday's 84-55 win over Daniel Boone. In Friday's pounding of Crockett, Tarter had 17 points and seven assists.
— — —
Girls pick of the week — Science Hill 67, Dobyns-Bennett 52.
The Lady Hilltoppers' express shows no signs of slowing down as tournament time is on the horizon.
Picks record: 7-1.
— — —
North Greene's six-game winning streak, capped off by a win over Cloudland, helped it move up two spots in this week's Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Science Hill 23-3 1
2. Elizabethton 20-4 2
3. Tennessee High 20-4 3
4. Hampton 20-6 4
5. Unicoi County 17-7 5
6. Dobyns-Bennett 18-7 6
7. South Greene 19-7 8
8. North Greene 20-7 10
9. Cloudland 15-10 7
10. Sullivan South 16-9 9