When a basketball team has a lot of talent, people can sometimes lose sight of a good coaching job.
Some folks may look at Science Hill's recent run of success and attribute it mainly to talent. And yes, the Lady Hilltoppers had very good players over the last three years.
But when head coach Darrell Barnwell took over the program, there really wasn't a solid tradition. There is now.
When Science Hill reached the Class AAA semifinals in 2011, many people caught notice of Barnwell's coaching abilities. However, to maintain success a coach has to be a good leader of the entire program.
Barnwell's 2012 team went undefeated before getting clipped by Murfreesboro Riverdale in the finals. Keeping his team focused game in and game out for an entire season was quite a feat.
The Hilltoppers fell way behind in the 2012 title game but Barnwell helped them keep fighting, and they eventually got back in the game before falling short at the end.
This year's team would probably have been a disappointment if it didn't reach the finals, which is a huge burden to carry. But Barnwell put together a monster schedule, kept the girls focused on the smaller tasks at hand, and led them right back to the doorstep of a title.
Few people expected Science Hill to beat Riverdale on Saturday. Many expected a blowout. But the Lady Hilltoppers were within two points in the fourth quarter.
Add all of these things together, and Barnwell deserves credit for a putting together a dominant program and keeping it on top.
And who knows? His best work might come in 2014.
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There was no coincidence for Science Hill, Elizabethton, Cloudland and Hampton reaching the girls state tournament in the same season. All four of those programs have excellent coaches.
Len Dugger genuinely cares about the kids, and knows how to teach the game of basketball. The Lady Cyclones are fortunate to have his steady hand leading the program.
Matt Birchfield's Lady Highlanders overcame more adversity than any program should have to endure in one season. Losing players but having several others ready to go is the mark of a quality basketball coach, and Birchfield proved his worth in that department.
Leon Tolley knows Xs and Os and teaches the game the old-fashioned way. His successful coaching — sharpened from the wisdom of Hampton legends — proves the Lady Bulldogs' program is in good hands.
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Elizabethton placed two basketball players on the Class AA all-state tournament team. Freshman Kayla Marosites and senior Reazyn DeMoss were honored.
Each player had one giant game with Marosites scoring 30 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the quarterfinal win over Martin Westview, and DeMoss totaling 21 points and seven rebounds in the semifinal loss to eventual champion Christ Presbyterian Academy.
Before CPA pulled off back-to-back titles, city and private/academy schools had not been able to rule the state in Class AA. County schools won 18 of the 25 titles, going back to 1987.
The other seven titles went to Livingston Academy (4) and city schools (3).
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Science Hill's baseball team opened on the road against Sullivan Central on Monday because work at Cardinal Park wasn't completed in time.
The scheduled game with the Cougars on April 2 in Blountville has been moved to Cardinal Park.
“When we made the decision to move the game, I don't think (Cardinal Park) was quite ready,” said Hilltoppers' head baseball coach Ryan Edwards. “But I went up there (Monday), and it looked really good. If we had to play Central there, I think we could have.”
Science Hill will begin play Wednesday in the Grand Slam Sports Challenge in Murfreesboro. The Hilltoppers will face Siegel Wednesday, and then battle Shelbyville and Oakland on Thursday. On Friday they will take on Arlington and Riverdale.
It's quite a test for so early in the season.
“In a perfect world, spring break would be later,” said Edwards. “But spring break is what it is, and I like to get out of town with the kids during spring break.
“And obviously if we are going to leave town and spend money on hotels, we want to play good competition. I think it will be good for us.”
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Daniel Boone had a memorable softball season in 2012, which means teams will probably put up a little more scrap against the Lady Trailblazers this season.
“We know we will have a bull's-eye on our backs, and we will get everybody's best effort,” said Boone head coach Rick Wagner. “So we have to match their intensity. It may take us a while to get our identity, but we hope to get better throughout the season.”
The Lady Trailblazers finished 50-6 last season, making a stirring run out of the losers' bracket in the Class AAA state tournament. Boone won five straight games to set up a winner-take-all showdown against Soddy-Daisy, before falling short, 7-0.
Boone opens its season today at home against David Crockett at 4:30 p.m. The Lady Trailblazers play host to Volunteer on Thursday.
Later in the season, Boone will play in tournaments in Cookeville, Kingsport, Maryville and Coffee County.
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Former TSSAA executive director Ronnie Carter earned a national spotlight recently.
Carter, who guided the organization from 1986 to 2009, was selected for induction into the National High School Hall of Fame. He will become the eighth person and first administrator from the state to receive the honor, which will become official June 27 in Denver.
Carter was the third executive director in TSSAA history, following Gil Gideon (1972-86) and A.F. Bridges (1946-72). Bernard Childress is the current director.
In his 40-year career, Carter was a math teacher, football and basketball coach, official and administrator.
Childress said Carter's honor was “the pinnacle of success in high school sports.”
Previous Tennessee inductees into the national hall of fame included former Hampton and Dobyns-Bennett basketball coach Walter “Buck” Van Huss. Other coaches were Rick Insell (Shelbyville Central girls basketball), Catherine Neely (Chattanooga East Ridge volleyball), Jim Smiddy (Bradley Central girls basketball), and Boyce Smith (Springfield football).
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Prep signings: Science Hill swimming standout Tyler Mills has made his college choice.
Mills, who won the state championship in the 50-yard freestyle event, will sign with the University of Tennessee on March 28.
Mills also finished third in the state in the 100-yard butterfly. …
Sullivan East's Dalton Hudlow recently made his college decision. The Patriots' cross country standout made it official with UT-Martin.