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What lies ahead: NET teams see plenty of challenges

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jan 29, 2018 at 8:06 PM

With most of the regular season in the books, area basketball fans have a gauge for what the district tournaments will look like.

But what about the road beyond? Here is a look at potential postseason pitfalls for Northeast Tennessee teams:

BOYS

Class AAA

Region — With two wins over District 1 leader Dobyns-Bennett, Jefferson County (20-5) is probably the favorite at this point. Morristown East (16-9) and Sevier County (16-6) are also factors.

Sectional — Bearden (24-1) is ranked No. 1 in the state with its lone loss coming in the loaded Arby’s Classic. Avoidance is the best plan of attack. The other spot would likely come from the trio of Maryville (18-4), Knox Catholic (16-4) or Oak Ridge (14-6).

Class AA

Region — Grainger (15-7) has played a tough schedule, but Greeneville (10-10) may be a bigger threat. The Greene Devils started 2-9 against a rugged schedule, but have turned things around and are leading the Blue Ridge Conference. Chuckey-Doak (14-10) is also worth watching.

Sectional — As usual, Knox Fulton (15-5) and Austin-East (15-2) are the roadblocks. Carter (14-5) is a darkhorse.

Class A

Region — Cosby (18-3) is a legitimate threat, so the scramble to avoid the Eagles’ side of the region will be quite a battle. Hancock County (17-4) has a pretty record, but hasn’t exactly played a killer schedule.

Sectional — Oakdale (19-4) and Harriman (15-8) look like the best bets to reach this stage, but Lookout Valley (15-5) is interesting, too.

GIRLS

Class AAA

Region — No surprise here. It’s Morristown West (16-2) that presents the biggest problem for District 1 teams. But it should be noted Daniel Boone owns a road win over the Lady Trojans. Morristown East (17-7) is also in the mix.

Sectional — Oak Ridge (17-4) is the most dangerous. The Lady Wildcats get company from Hardin Valley (19-4) and an interesting mix of Bearden (16-7), William Blount (16-7) and Maryville (16-3).

Class AA

Region — South Greene (21-3) is a clear-cut favorite. Grainger (17-4) is also a major threat while Chuckey-Doak (13-5) is a darkhorse.

Sectional — Northview Academy (21-1) and Carter (15-3) could emerge at this level. Kingston (13-7) is in the mix, and Knox Fulton (10-10) shouldn’t be counted out despite its record.

Class A

Region — Cosby (13-7) is 11-0 in District 2, but District 1 fourth-place Unaka owns two wins over the Lady Eagles. So a District 1 sweep in the region quarterfinals is not out of the question.

Sectional — Tellico Plains (19-1) and Sunbright (20-5) appear to be the most likely suppliers of opponents for the Region 1 champion and runner-up. Oneida (15-6) could have its say as well.

Whitson’s decision

Dobyns-Bennett girls basketball standout Courtney Whitson took a step toward her future when she committed to play basketball for East Tennessee State University.

Whitson, a junior, announced the decision on her Twitter account recently. She said, “First and foremost, I want to say put your trust in God. I have been playing since I was in the third grade. Not once have I looked back on my dreams. I want to truly thank each and every college coach (who) has invested their time and expressed interest in me. The ride has been wonderful. I am verbally committing to East Tennessee State University to continue playing the game I love.”

Whitson has helped the Lady Indians to a record of 17-7 this season, She is averaging 14.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and shooting 77 percent from the free throw line. She recently moved into third place on the Lady Indians’ all-time scoring list with 1,473 points.

East’s big night

Sullivan East will have a special night to honor basketball players from the former Bluff City, Holston Valley and Mary Hughes high schools — which were consolidated to form East in 1968.

The Legacy Night will take place Tuesday at The Dyer Dome at halftime of the boys’ varsity contest between East and Unicoi County. Players from those teams are invited to attend this event.

“We are excited to honor our former Holston Valley, Mary Hughes, and Bluff City basketball players,” said Sullivan East head coach John Dyer. “All three schools had a rich basketball tradition with many excellent individual players.”

D-B’s sophomore sensation

Dobyns-Bennett’s Sasha Neglia earned a big honor Monday when she was announced as the 2017-18 Gatorade Tennessee Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the race course. She is a member of the Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor society, and has volunteered locally as a youth track and swimming coach. Her weighted GPA is 4.45.

State dual wrestling

Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett each drew a Murfreesboro team for the opening round of the state dual wrestling tournament at Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin.

In the lower bracket, the Hilltoppers will meet Murfreesboro Oakland in the round of 16 on Friday at 4 p.m. (EST). D-B is in the upper bracket and will square off against Murfreesboro Blackman, also at 4 p.m. The quarterfinals are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday. Saturday’s championship is slated for 6:30 p.m.

In the state rankings, Science Hill slipped a spot to No. 5. However, the Hilltoppers remained No. 2 among public schools. Division II Chattanooga Baylor moved ahead of the Hilltoppers, who are behind No. 1 overall Cleveland.

Boys Games of the Week

Tuesday

Unicoi County at Sullivan East

Sullivan Central at Johnson County

Cloudland at North Greene

Friday

Science Hill at David Crockett

Dobyns-Bennett at Daniel Boone

After cruising through eight league games without a loss, Unicoi County suddenly finds itself facing a real threat to its Three Rivers Conference title hopes. Sullivan East is still in the hunt, but will need a much different performance from the 22-point setback in Erwin on Jan. 5 if it wants to forge a tie in the loss column.

After this meeting, East still has four conference games remaining while Unicoi — which can clinch a tie for the league title and earn the first-round bye for the district tournament by beating East — will have just two left.

Girls Games of the Week

Tuesday

Elizabethton at Sullivan South

Cloudland at North Greene

Friday

Dobyns-Bennett at Daniel Boone

Elizabethton at Unicoi County

Sullivan East at Sullivan South

Unaka at Cloudland

It doesn’t look like anyone is going to catch Sullivan Central for first place in the Three Rivers Conference, but four teams are still in the hunt for second and third place. Those spots are important because the fourth- and fifth-place finishers will meet in an elimination game in the first round of the district tournament.

Basketball rankings

Unicoi County knocked off David Crockett on Saturday, a good enough win to push the Blue Devils up a spot despite the loss to Johnson County on Tuesday. Unicoi is No. 4 in this week’s High School Top 10.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett (20-6) — 1

2. Science Hill (16-7) — 2

3. Daniel Boone (12-9) — 3

4. Unicoi County (14-9) — 5

5. David Crockett (11-12) — 4

6. Johnson County (15-8) — 6

7. Tennessee High (11-12) — 7

8. Sullivan East (13-11) — 8

9. Hampton (14-7) — 9

10. Cloudland (13-8) — NR

As has been the case for much of the season, the girls rankings remain volatile. After the solid top four, the remaining six teams take different positions.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Daniel Boone (19-4) — 1

2. Science Hill (20-3) — 2

3. Dobyns-Bennett (17-7) — 3

4. Sullivan Central (12-8) — 4

5. Cloudland (18-6) — 7

6. Sullivan South (15-9) — 10

7. North Greene (16-8) — 9

8. Unicoi County (14-8) — 5

9. Unaka (17-9) — 6

10. Tennessee High (15-9) — 8

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