Some basketball teams with a record of 18-9 would be talking about what a good season it has been.
At Science Hill, it’s a different story because of a shining tradition.
Having lost three of five games — two in blowout fashion — to league rivals, head coach Ken Cutlip is trying to find for a fix for his players that is probably closer to abstract than it is to concrete.
“Being honest, if I had the true answer to what the kids need to do, I’d be traveling across the country and doing lectures,” said Cutlip. “It’s different for each kid. In two of the three losses we played really hard. That’s the No. 1 thing you’ve got to do.
“And then I think you’ve got to be able to go to the next play. I think that’s critical, regardless of what just happened — especially if you miss the shot or turn the ball over. Move on to the next play and start fresh, over and over. That’s the key to being successful.”
Shooting has taken Science Hill to the heights of 15 of 30 from 3-point land in a win over Sullivan Central to the depths of 1 of 24 in Friday’s loss to David Crockett.
“I felt like we had turned the corner after the lull with Tennessee High and Dobyns-Bennett, and played much better,” said Cutlip, whose team had a 61-game winning streak in the Big Seven Conference snapped by the Vikings. “But right now this team is too dependent on making shots. We’ve put ourselves in a position of having to be almost flawless on the defensive end to have a chance to win.”
If there is a silver lining to the Hilltoppers’ glitch, it is a decrease in pressure for the postseason. Other teams and fans won’t be expecting as much from them in the district and beyond. In fact, right now Science Hill would an underdog against Dobyns-Bennett, Tennessee High, David Crockett, Jefferson County and Sevier County among the teams in Region 1.
That’s not a problem, said Cutlip.
“If you look over the season, I think you will see this team has shown the ability to rise to the occasion,” he said. “Knox Webb (22-3) has had an unbelievable year, and we beat them. Against Oak Ridge (23-5) we had some opportunities and competed. I think our kids have shown the ability to play with really good teams. I don’t think it will shake our kids’ confidence if they aren’t favored.
“And the team that wins in the postseason is usually the team that gets hot. It doesn’t matter where you are seeded. I’m hoping with the games where we have shot so poorly, we’ve gotten it out of our system.”
It’s a different story for Science Hill’s girls, who have won all 26 games they’ve played and might not even see a 50-50 type game unless they reach Murfreesboro.
Opponents can’t even hope being undefeated will put pressure on the Lady Hilltoppers because they are just two years removed from a 38-0 run to the state-title game.
“Tianna (Tarter) and Gabby (Lyon) have played in three state tournaments,” said head coach Keith Turner. “They’ve played in two state-championship games. They’ve had all that success, and they don’t even talk about it. They really don’t. They go about their business, and it’s the next game. Gabby and Tianna and Keisha (Gregory) have state-tournament experience, and it helps.”
Turner is in his first season leading the Lady Hilltoppers, but he hit the ground running. He coached them when they were younger and is good friends with their former coach, Darrell Barnwell.
“I had to gain their trust in the summer and stuff like that,” said Turner. “But once that was done, it has been an easy bunch to coach. There’s no drama, and we have good senior leadership.
“The girls have done a good job knowing their roles. Grace (Herrin) has been tenacious on defense. Baylee and Melea (Fenley) have done a good job. It has been a fun group.”
Science Hill certainly knows it belongs among the state’s elite. The team is ranked No. 2 behind Murfreesboro Blackman, which is 23-1 and ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps.com and USA Today.
The Lady Hilltoppers played Blackman in the summer and lost by just two points. Turner said Blackman was missing one of its guards for that contest, but the pressure was intense.
“They really try to turn you over,” said Turner. “Sometimes outside shooting is their biggest weakness.”
There’s a pretty good chance Turner has been coaching three Division I players this season.
Lyon already has a deal in hand from Middle Tennessee State while Tarter hasn’t made up her mind. Gregory will likely be in the Division I mix next year.
Turner said Tarter is wide open, but has serious looks from Indiana State, Wright State, Lamar and UT-Martin. Also, Mississippi is keeping at least a pinky toe in the door.
“I told her to be patient,” said Turner. “Something will happen. She has done what she needed to do (academically). She has a really good ACT score. She just needs to finish this semester.”
Turner said there’s no doubt Tarter can play at college basketball’s highest level.
“I think she can play in the SEC or ACC either one,” said Turner. “That’s not just my opinion, but from people in the college ranks who have seen her play and been around girls ball at the high school and college level.
“She’s an unbelievable competitor. She can score, defend, pass. She’s a true point guard.”
Perhaps surprisingly, East Tennessee State apparently hasn’t shown much interest in Tarter — despite some people saying she could help the Lady Bucs right now.
“They’ve come and watched her play a few times,” said Turner. “They said they didn’t have a need at point guard, but that was very early. There’s nothing definitive.”
The Lady Bucs would have a leg up on the competition because Tarter probably isn’t going to stray too far from home to play college ball.
“I think distance would be an issue,” said Turner. “That’s the case for a lot of kids, not just her. I think there will be a limit on distance.”
It’s getting down to crunch time for high school basketball teams, but for one day several area football players will steal the spotlight.
They will become part of East Tennessee State’s new program with signings set for Wednesday.
Included in the mix are Science Hill running back Chance Pierce and linebacker Gad Nagba. They will sign at 3 p.m. in Science Hill’s gym.
Signing at David Crockett at 3:45 will be Pioneers’ defensive lineman Colt Jenkins.
And at Elizabethton at 3 p.m., defensive end Adam Mullins will make it official with the Buccaneers. …
Also on the signings list for Wednesday are three David Crockett players. Wide receiver Luke Hopson and lineman Coy Vaughn will sign with Maryville College while running back Dalton Brown is headed for Tusculum College.
Elizabethton’s Jacob Woodby will continue his playing career at Brevard College.
Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz.
Wrestling update: Science Hill got a first-round win in the state dual tournament, beating Maryville 30-24 in the Class AAA event in Franklin over the weekend.
The Hilltoppers then lost 38-24 to Ravenwood in the quarterfinals before bowing out with a 37-29 losers’ bracket setback against Maryville Heritage.
In the win over Maryville, Hunter Bagley (220 pounds) and Austin Bagley (145) recorded pins.
Against Ravenwood, Eric Yother (120) had a pin while Austin Bagley (145) earned a 20-5 technical fall. Ben Rolston had an 8-0 major decision at 152 pounds.
In the match with Heritage, Sam Lane (138) had a 16-1 technical fall and Wilbur Guiterrez added a pin at 145 pounds.
Cleveland defeated Wilson Central 50-15 to earn the Class AAA state title. …
Pigeon Forge defeated Greeneville 43-25 to capture the Class A-AA state championship.
Boys basketball games of the week: (Today) Dobyns-Bennett at Daniel Boone, Sullivan South at Elizabethton; (Wednesday) Jefferson County at Dobyns-Bennett, (Friday) Unicoi County at Johnson County; (Saturday) Hampton at Unicoi County.
The Indians can clinch the Big Seven title outright by taking down the Trailblazers. …
There will be a major impact on the Three Rivers Conference title chase as the Rebels and Cyclones go head to head. …
The Blue Devils have a very tough finish to their final week of the regular season.
Boys player of the week — Tyler Nichols of Elizabethton.
The Cyclones’ junior guard had standout efforts in a pair of victories.
With his team defeating Sullivan East 49-34 on Thursday, Nichols totaled 19 points and eight rebounds.
He went a few steps better in Friday’s 70-52 whipping of Johnson County, totaling 24 points and 14 rebounds.
Boys pick of the week — Dobyns-Bennett 72, Daniel Boone 56.
The Indians should be all business as they get a chance to fulfill preseason predictions by winning the Big Seven title.
Picks record: 4-3.
With each of the top three teams losing last week, Dobyns-Bennett has jumped all the way from No. 4 to No. 1. The Indians were pretty ugly before January, but are averaging 77 points per game in a nine-game winning streak.
Slotted in the top spot in the preseason, the Indians are finally looking the part and take over the No. 1 spot in this week’s Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Dobyns-Bennett 15-8 4
2. Hampton 21-3 1
3. Unicoi County 20-5 2
4. Tennessee High 19-6 3
5. Elizabethton 18-6 6
6. David Crockett 17-10 7
7. Sullivan South 15-9 8
8. Science Hill 18-9 5
9. Daniel Boone 14-12 9
10. Johnson County 11-11 10
This Week in Prep History: January 29, 2002.
David Crockett’s girls earned a 67-58 win over Unaka with senior post player Nikki Clemmons leading the way. She had 15 points, 18 rebounds and six assists in the victory.
Girls basketball games of the week: (Today) Volunteer at Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett at Daniel Boone, Sullivan South at Elizabethton, Hampton at North Greene, (Friday) Cloudland at Hampton.
Daniel Boone can take a big step toward the regional tournament tonight, or face a much tougher first-round district contest.
A win over D-B gives Boone a very good shot at third place in the Big Seven Conference, and a first-round district game against No. 6 seed David Crockett, where a win puts Boone in the region. A loss would force Boone into fourth place, where the Trailblazers would face Tennessee High in the first round of the district. …
Hampton gets a sneak preview of the district tournament, and a chance to see if it has a shot to make some noise.
Girls player of the week — Kayla Marosites of Elizabethton.
Leading her team to a pair of victories, the sophomore guard totaled 43 points and 13 steals.
Marosites had 25 points, five rebounds and seven steals in a 53-29 pounding of Sullivan East on Thursday.
On Friday, Marosites had 18 points, five rebounds and six steals in a 66-33 victory over Johnson County.
Girls pick of the week — North Greene 52, Hampton 48.
The Lady Huskies have turned things up a notch lately, winning eight in a row. Their last loss was a two-pointer against Hampton, so this is a chance to prove their winning streak has some real bite to it.
Picks record: 7-0.
Volunteer takes advantage of other teams losing to move up two spots to No. 3 while North Greene makes a two-spot leap in this week’s girls rankings.
Team W-L Prv
1. Science Hill 26-0 1
2. Elizabethton 19-3 2
3. Volunteer 23-6 5
4. Sullivan East 22-6 4
5. South Greene 20-8 6
6. North Greene 19-9 8
7. Cloudland 21-5 3
8. Dobyns-Bennett 16-8 9
9. Daniel Boone 16-10 7
10. Hampton 16-9 10