It has been said the victor gets the spoils, and Science Hill’s dominance of the All-Northeast Tennessee girls team matched its dominance of area basketball.
Landing a record five players on the team, the undefeated Lady Hilltoppers put up quite a show of force on the 24th annual squad, which was selected Tuesday by the Johnson City Press.
One spot the Hilltoppers did not claim was player of the year honors, and that went to Cloudland standout Brooke Rhodes — who leads her team into the Class A state tournament Thursday.
Joining Rhodes on the first team were Science Hill’s Tianna Tarter, Gabby Lyon and Shy Copney. Also earning first-team honors were Tennessee High’s Ashlee Mitchell and Unicoi County’s Emily Edwards.
Leading the way on the second team were Science Hill’s Enjelica Reid and Morgan Depew of Elizabethton. Also on the second team were Hampton’s Dorothy Dugger, Chuckey-Doak’s Karly Frye, and Cloudland’s Courtney Wilson.
Science Hill was also at the head of the class on the bench in two ways: Darrell Barnwell was chosen as the coach of the year for the second straight season, and Keisha Gregory was selected as the most promising underclassman.
Hampton’s Paige Dugger got the nod as the defensive player of the year.
When Rhodes arrived at Cloudland, there was already a good team in place. But the 6-2 junior post helped them become a state-title threat.
Rhodes averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds as Cloudland rolled to a record of 32-4.
But it isn’t just the scoring and rebounding that make Rhodes tough. She is also a quality defensive player, a very good shot blocker, and a good passer.
Tarter is the go-girl for Science Hill’s offense from her point guard position, and has helped the Hilltoppers go 36-0 as they head into Thursday’s state quarterfinal contest. She averages 12 points, nearly five assists and two steals per game.
The 5-6 sophomore’s speed and athleticism help the Science Hill express operate at over 73 points per game.
Two other reasons for the high-scoring ways of the Hilltoppers are Copney, a junior guard, and Lyon, a sophomore post.
The 5-11 Copney averages 12 points per game and has really picked up her play as the postseason arrived. She also averages five rebounds per game and is a big threat from 3-point land.
Lyon is a 6-foot force in the paint. She leads Science Hill in scoring (14 points per game) and rebounding (7.5).
As for Mitchell, she was Northeast Tennessee’s leading scorer at 19 points per game, but that didn’t tell all of the story. The 5-5 junior guard averaged seven rebounds, four assists and five steals while helping the Vikings reach the regional semifinals.
Edwards helped Unicoi County earn a 20-win season while winning both the Three Rivers Conference and District 1-AA titles. The 5-7 junior point guard averaged 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals per game while also shooting 76 percent on free throws. Edwards easily led the area with 179 attempts from the foul line in the regular season.
Reid is a double-figure scorer for the Hilltoppers. The 5-10 junior post is also a difficult matchup for teams on both ends of the court.
Depew had a 39-point effort this season against Unicoi County, and averaged 14 points, 4.5 assists and two steals per game. The 5-4 junior helped the Cyclones win 20 games this season.
As for Dugger, the 5-9 junior guard was the third-leading scorer in the area with 17.5 per game. She led the area with three 3-pointers per game, and was also second with 4.7 steals per contest while helping Hampton reach the region semifinals.
Chuckey-Doak had a season to remember, coming within two points of the state tournament, and Frye was the heart and soul of the team. The 5-5 senior point guard averaged 16 points per game.
As for the Wilson, the 5-8 sophomore has made big things happen in the paint for the Lady Landers. She is averaging 11 points and seven rebounds, and works well with Rhodes.
Gregory showed a lot of promise this season, even early in her freshman year. The 5-8 guard has become quite a backup to Tarter at the point, and has a lot of athleticism and ability.
Hampton’s defense is always tough, and Dugger was at the forefront of it. The 5-5 senior guard averaged 3.1 steals per game and continually harassed opponents.
Barnwell took a loaded team and kept it on the winning track all season. The Hilltoppers have somehow exceeded very lofty expectations by not losing a game as they prepare to take aim at a state title. It is Barnwell’s third coach of the year honor.
Cloudland’s Matt Birchfield was also given consideration for coach of the year honors.