Good news: Science Hill didn’t draw a Memphis team. Bad news: The Hilltoppers will face a school located just 30 minutes from Murphy Center.
In the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state basketball tournament, Science Hill (34-2) will go up against Wilson Central (26-6) on Thursday at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) in Murfreesboro.
“Just from what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty good matchup,” said Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip. “I don’t think there are any good draws in the state tournament — just ask our girls’ team about that.”
Also in Class AAA, Cherokee drew Clarksville. The Chiefs (26-8) will play the Wildcats (25-11) at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
In Class A, Cloudland avoided the Memphis gauntlet as well, but will have to face McEwen and its sparkling 30-1 record on Thursday at 6 p.m.
The pairings were announced Saturday during a blind draw at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro.
The No. 3-ranked Hilltoppers will be looking for their first state tournament win since 2002. Their challenge is a team located in Lebanon.
Cutlip said he likes the idea of playing a team with good fan support, because of the early start time.
“The morning games usually hurt the crowds,” said Cutlip, whose team hits the court before noon, central time. “So I like the idea of playing somebody with a big crowd. I’d rather have a loud environment than a quiet one.
“It’s not ideal to play early in the day, but both teams have to deal with the same adversity. It’s a matter of which team adjusts quicker.”
Also, Cutlip said his team could benefit by attending Wednesday’s Class AAA games and getting a feel for the state tournament atmosphere.
Cutlip coached against Wilson head coach Troy Bond when Cutlip was at Mt. Juliet.
“We were in the same county and the same conference,” said Cutlip.
Science Hill last made the state in 2009, losing to Walker Valley. The Hilltoppers have lost just once in-state this year, a 58-57 upset against Greeneville — a team the Hilltoppers beat 81-35 in the rematch.
Two of Wilson Central’s losses came against out-of-state teams: Louisville (Ky.) Ballard and Huntsville, Ala. The Wildcats also lost to Mt. Juliet twice in the regular season, but earned a win in the district third-place game after getting bumped by Hendersonville Beech.
Wilson returned the favor against Beech, eliminating it 56-50 in the Region 5-AAA semifinals. Clarksville then thumped Wilson 67-49 in the region title game.
That put Wilson on the road, where it earned a 60-52 win over Brentwood.
As for Cloudland’s opponent, McEwen is located about 50 miles west of Nashville.
Highlanders’ head coach Brandon Carpenter said he was not upset with the draw.
“It’s a little better than what we’ve had,” said Carpenter, whose team is making its second straight state appearance and fifth in the last seven years. “They will be a good basketball team, but they are not here yearly. That might be to our advantage.”
McEwen opened the season with 20 straight victories before losing a district game to White House Heritage, 59-53 on Jan. 27. Then the Warriors ripped off 10 straight wins on their march to Murfreesboro, including a 37-32 district-final win over White House Heritage.
After losing on the road in the sectional in 2010 and 2011, McEwen was at home this year against Collinwood. The Warriors won, 58-44.
“They’ve not played a lot of bigger schools,” said Carpenter. “We’re happy with the draw and we will just try to play our best game.”