After over two months of preparation, the real season is here.
District basketball tournaments begin this week, starting today with the 1-AAA girls at Sullivan Centralís gym in Blountville. At stake are berths in the region tournaments, with the top four finishers in the district extending their seasons.
The rest of the teams pack up their gear and talk about 2012-13.
When things get to the district tournament, secrets and surprises are a thing of the past.
“The district is such a challenge because teams are so familiar with each other,” said Unicoi County head coach John English, whose team has won five of the last seven District 1-AA championships.
Following is a look at each tournament, along with the expected winners, possible surprises and most valuable player predictions:
1-AAA at Sullivan Central — Science Hill buzzed through the regular season without a league loss, so the Hilltoppers enter as a clear-cut favorite.
Dobyns-Bennett is the only legitimate threat to Science Hill. However, the chase for the other three region spots is tight.
David Crockett fits the bill for the darkhorse role.
Favorite: Science Hill.
Predicted winner: Science Hill.
Projected MVP: C.J. Good, Science Hill.
1-AA at Unicoi County — Unicoi County had to fight, scratch, claw and survive to get the No. 1 seed, which is no surprise because this tournament was forecast as a dandy from Day 1 of the season.
There are four teams capable of walking away with the winnersí hardware: the Blue Devils, Sullivan East, Elizabethton and Sullivan North. Unicoi County is at home, so that gives it the slight edge.
However, Elizabethton may be playing the best basketball, so the Cyclones are definitely a threat. And the Patriots were top dogs for the first half of the season, so they must be recognized.
Favorite: Unicoi County.
Predicted winner: Unicoi County.
Projected Co-MVPs: Austin Hensley and Trevor Shelton, Unicoi County.
1-A at Daniel Boone — Things got a little shaky for Cloudland at the end of the regular season. However, the Highlanders have a tradition of playing their best ball in the tournaments.
Hampton is certainly a threat to win the title, and University High is also capable of surprising some folks.
Wednesday’s coin flip between Cloudland and Hampton for the top seed will decide who is favored because the loser would have to meet a tough UH squad in the semifinals. Co-favorites: Hampton and Cloudland. Predicted winner: Cloudland. Projected MVP: Dylan McClellan, Cloudland.
1-AAA girls — Nobody has been able to create a serious in-game issue for Science Hill, so the district tournament should just be an extension of its dominance. If the Lady Hilltoppers have a problem, it would likely come from Tennessee High in the finals. Vikings’ guard Ashlee Mitchell is playing better than any girl in the area. Favorite: Science Hill. Predicted winner: Science Hill. Projected MVP: Shy Copney, Science Hill. 1-AA girls — It has been a little bit of a strange season for this league. Unicoi County looked like it would roll undefeated, but got clipped by Elizabethton twice ñ once in a tournament and once in a league game.
However, the Lady Cyclones slipped up against Sullivan East and barely beat Happy Valley.
One of the interesting storylines is Johnson County’s attempt to reach the region tournament. It would take another upset of the Lady Warriors, who were stunned by the Lady Longhorns a couple of weeks ago in Mountain City. Favorite: Unicoi County. Predicted winner: Unicoi County. ProjectedMVP:EmilyEdwards, Unicoi County.
1-A girls — Everybody is chasing Cloudland, and the problem is matching the Lady Highlandersí post play. Hampton can get things done at the guard position, but size is a major issue. North Greene, which made the Class A state finals last season, canít be completely dismissed . Favorite: Cloudland. Predicted winner: Cloudland. Projected MVP: Brooke Rhodes, Cloudland.