After streaking through the first four games of conference play, Science Hill’s basketball teams will venture back outside the conference at the Doubletree Roundball in the Palace this weekend at Science Hill.
This year’s participants include the boys and girls teams from Daniel Boone, Knox Webb and Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Science Hill’s boys won their 59th straight Big Seven Conference regular-season game Tuesday at Sullivan Central. The Hilltoppers (4-0, 9-2) play tonight at 8:30 against CAK (4-4), which Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said is expected to be without point guard Oteriah Lee until probably sometime after Christmas.
Lee’s absence won’t keep Science Hill from getting beat if it doesn’t play well, Cutlip says. A home loss to Elizabethton on Zeke Clark’s 40-foot buzzer-beater has been good motivation for the Hilltoppers, whose four league wins include back-to-back triumphs against preseason favorite Dobyns-Bennett and at Tennessee High.
It was easy to understand Science Hill being picked second in the league after having to replace the likes of C.J. Good, Will Adams, Reed Hayes and Marc Aples. Science Hill also had to replace longtime assistant coach John Good and his son, Patrick, who’s now lighting up opponents for his dad at David Crockett.
Cutlip was also excited about the offseasons of 6-foot-8 senior Andrew Smith and sophomore guard Xavier Driver, but Smith (leg) is out until probably January and Driver was lost for the season with a knee injury in football.
But the beats have gone on, thus far, for Science Hill.
“Fortunately for us, we’ve played our best basketball in our conference games,” Cutlip said.
Science Hill didn’t have an answer for Clark against Elizabethton and it was without senior point guard Hunter Hensley (concussion). Hensley had 15 points, seven steals and four assists against Central.
“He probably had the best game of his career (at Sullivan Central),” Cutlip said. “He’s been shooting it with so much more confidence this year. He’s always been an outstanding point guard as far as making other people better and pushing the basketball … but a lot of times people don’t realize how effective he is defensively in the press. …
“We played without Hunter (against Elizabethton), and that’s a huge deal – him not playing that night. But without a doubt, I think that (loss) got everybody’s attention on our team – just realizing how hard we’re gonna have to play to have opportunities to win. … Sometimes it’s tough to play at the level that you have to play at to be successful night in and night out.”
Senior shooting guard Calvin Songster leads the ‘Toppers with approximately 19 points per game. Songster and Hensley are shooting around 45 percent from 3-point range. Peyton Wingate is shooting 40 percent behind the arc.
Cutlip said Webb and CAK are both coached well, fundamentally sound and have talent. Webb (11-0) features 6-foot-2 junior Justin Jenkins. His father, Fred, scored 1,149 points for Don DeVoe at Tennessee in the mid-1980s.
Justin was the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s top sophomore last season after averaging 13.1 points while helping Webb win 29 games and reach the D-II state semifinals.
“Webb is playing really well,” Cutlip said. “And CAK played them the other night and I think it was a five-point game. So that kind of tells you how good CAK is.”
Ryan Arnold’s Daniel Boone (1-2, 7-4) will play Webb today at 5:30 p.m. The Trailblazers are led by one of Northeast Tennessee’s top players in 6-foot-3 southpaw wing Dillon Reppart, who had 26 points in a shootout with Patrick Good (32 points) in Boone’s overtime loss to Crockett on Friday.
The Lady Hilltoppers (4-0, 10-0) have won 43 straight regular-season conference games. Senior point guard Tianna Tarter is averaging 15-16 points per game (23.3 over the past three) and 6-foot senior post Gabby Lyon is averaging around 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Science Hill coach Keith Turner said recruiting interest in Tarter is beginning to pick up. Ole Miss, East Tennessee State, Lamar and UT-Martin are among those interested.
Lyon signed last month with Middle Tennessee State. Many coaches say Science Hill has at least one more D-I recruit in junior guard Keisha Gregory.
Science Hill will play tonight at 7 against CAK (5-3), which also has a guard generating D-I interest in 5-foot-9 junior Anna Hammaker. Her father, Atlee, pitched at East Tennessee State and was an All-Star with the San Francisco Giants, but he initially signed with ETSU to play basketball.
He said Thursday that his alma mater is one of a number of schools interested in Anna, who’s receiving considerable BCS-level attention. She averaged 17.6 points, 5.3 assists, 5.2 steals and 4.3 rebounds en route to being named the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s top sophomore last season.
“I saw her last year and I’ve watched film on her,” Turner said. “She’s definitely a good player.”
CAK suffered a hit when 6-foot-6 Cheyenne Hooper decided not to play this season.
Daniel Boone (2-1, 6-3) is scheduled to play CAK on Saturday at 2:30 after taking on Webb today at 4 p.m. Travis Mains’ Lady Trailblazers are getting around 13 points and four rebounds per game from Taylor Carmichel. Also scoring in double figures are Katelyn Cox (12 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 spg) and Alli Littleton (10 ppg, 3 apg, 3 spg).
Webb (9-2) could hold its own with Boone and the Lady ‘Toppers.
“They’re just very aggressive and very physical and get after you,” Turner said. “I expect them to be a tough out this weekend.”