Science Hill has won 26 more basketball games this season, and lost 20 fewer, than South-Doyle.
However, Hilltoppers head coach Ken Cutlip said the two teams are equal record-wise heading into Saturday night’s Region 1-AAA quarterfinal contest at the Hilltoppers’ gym.
“We approach it the same as the first round of the district,” said Cutlip. “We reiterate to our kids: What is our record? We make sure they understand we are 0-0 just like them, and it’s one and done.
“It’s not who has been the best team this season, it’s who has the best team on that night to keep their season alive.”
Tipoff is set for 6 o’clock because of another event on the Science Hill campus.
In other 1-AAA contests — all tipping off at 7 o’clock — Daniel Boone hits the road to face Jefferson County, Sullivan South visits Sevier County, and Dobyns-Bennett is at home take on Cocke County. Semifinal action begins Tuesday at Snyder Gymnasium in Gray.
In Region 1-AA, Elizabethton plays host to Cumberland Gap, Sullivan North travels to play Grainger, Happy Valley is at Chuckey-Doak, and Sullivan East has a home game against Greeneville. Action shifts Tuesday to Elizabethton’s Treadway Gymnasium.
And in Region 1-A, Unaka will be at home to battle Clinch, Hampton visits Hancock County, University High is at Cosby, and Cloudland plays host to Washburn. The semifinals begin Tuesday at Chuckey-Doak Middle School.
Science Hill (34-2) is a big-time favorite, but Cutlip said it’s hard to know exactly what the District 2 teams bring to the table.
“The region is kind of spread out,” said Cutlip. “With the teams coming from east of Knoxville, it’s hard to judge how good they are based on their records. We don’t have a lot of common opponents, so records can be misleading.”
Case in point: South-Doyle.
“They’ve got a really good post who is 6-7 and athletic,” said Cutlip. “They have a physical point guard who is athletic and strong. And they have a kid who can shoot. They have three solid pieces that can make any team formidable.
“We asked how did they lose 21 games, and we were told, ‘That’s what every other coach down here is asking.’ ”
Daniel Boone faces a tough first-round chore at Jefferson County, but a win would bring the Trailblazers back to Gray for a home game in the semifinals.
Sevier County is 26-4, but the Smoky Bears have traded first-round upsets with Dobyns-Bennett over the last two years. This year, the teams figure to meet in the semifinals.
Favorite: Science Hill.
Predicted winner: Science Hill.
With a senior-dominated team and home-court advantage, Elizabethton figures to have a good shot at the title.
However, the Cyclones simply haven’t been successful at this stage of the season. In the last nine years, they have won just one region tournament game.
After Elizabethton, it’s really hard to focus on just one other frontrunner. A case can be made for the other top candidates all coming from the bottom bracket: Three Rivers Conference champion Sullivan East, District 2-AA champion Chuckey-Doak and Blue Ridge Athletic Conference champion Greeneville.
Sullivan East meets Greeneville in the first round. Both teams went undefeated in league play, but one will be eliminated early.
Sullivan North is dangerous because of standout Chase Arnold, and the Raiders were a bucket away from playing for the district title.
Predicted winner: Elizabethton.
Unaka has gotten hot at the right time of the season, and the Rangers plan on using that heat all the way through this tournament.
However, it’s a four-horse race with Cloudland, Hampton and University High all eyeing the prize. Cosby could make some noise, but it has been 10 years since a District 2 team made the championship game.
Cloudland has won three of the last four titles, so the Highlanders get the favorite role despite coming off a district runner-up finish.
Predicted winner: Cloudland.