Science Hill’s girls basketball team has gotten national attention, but the Lady Hilltoppers still have to navigate the regional tournament just like everybody else.
“In general, going into this time of year you want to make sure your team is ready,” said Science Hill head coach Darrell Barnwell. “If you have an off night, your season could be over. More specifically for this group is staying healthy, staying sharp and being mentally prepared.”
Science Hill (29-3) will play host to Sevier County (15-17) in the quarterfinals of the Region 1-AAA tournament. Tipoff is set for tonight at 7 o’clock.
In other first-round games, Daniel Boone visits Morristown West, Volunteer is at Cocke County, and Tennessee High is at home to take on Morristown East.
Semifinal action shifts to Snyder Gymnasium in Gray on Monday.
In Region 1-AA, Elizabethton plays host to West Greene, Sullivan East visits South Greene, Unicoi County is at Grainger, and Happy Valley is at home to battle Chuckey-Doak. Semifinal action shifts Monday at Treadway Gymnasium in Elizabethton.
And in Region 1-A, Cloudland is at home to battle Washburn, Hampton travels to take on Hancock County, Unaka is at Cosby, and North Greene has a home game against Clinch. The semifinals will begin Monday at Chuckey-Doak Middle School.
Science Hill is a huge favorite — not just to win the region, but roll to the title. However, Barnwell said his players understand what is at stake.
“They do a good job of staying mentally focused on our goals,” said Barnwell. “The last couple of years they have continued playing at a high level through tournament time.”
Barnwell also reminded his team about Morristown West’s near miss back on Nov. 15.
“West missed a shot at the buzzer that would have beaten us,” said Barnwell.
Since then only one in-state team, Tennessee High, has lost to the Lady Hilltoppers by less than 10 points.
Cocke County (20-9) was the surprise team of District 2-AAA, but the Lady Fighting Cocks would likely have their hands full in a potential semifinal matchup against Tennessee High.
Favorite: Science Hill.
Predicted winner: Science Hill.
Darkhorse: Tennessee High.
Grainger has gotten the headlines, and deservedly so because of its undefeated record.
However, the Lady Grizzlies entered last year’s region with a record of 29-2 before struggling to beat Happy Valley by seven points in the quarterfinals, edging Greeneville in overtime in the semifinals, and then losing to Chuckey-Doak in the finals.
This year, home-standing Elizabethton figures to be a threat. The Lady Cyclones have an interesting mix of veterans and newcomers and have been playing well of late.
Unicoi County was the No. 1 seed in District 1-AA, but the Lady Blue Devils lost both games and must face Grainger on the road in the first round.
Happy Valley, despite its 13-14 record, has been tough on everybody this postseason. Sullivan East showed some signs of life in the district, but faces a tough opening challenge at South Greene.
Predicted winner: Elizabethton.
Darkhorse: Happy Valley.
Upsets can happen in any contest, but today’s first-round matchups are loaded with heavy favorites.
If North Greene, Hampton, Cosby and Cloudland don’t advance to the semifinals, it will take a big surprise.
Cosby has eliminated Hampton in each of the last two years, but would likely face Cloudland and Class A Miss Basketball finalist Brooke Rhodes in the semifinals this time around.
An injury to Hampton guard Dorothy Dugger makes North Greene a strong favorite to reach the finals.
Favorite: North Greene.
Predicted winner: Cloudland.