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Lady 'Toppers, Lady Indians ready to battle for top spot

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Nov 11, 2018 at 10:01 AM

Coaches' picks

1. Science Hill

2. Dobyns-Bennett

3. Daniel Boone

4. Cherokee

5. David Crockett

6. Volunteer

7. Tennessee High

Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett are expected to battle it out for Big Seven Conference girls supremacy after Daniel Boone was hit hard with graduation.

The Lady 'Toppers are young, but experienced. They feature an athletic team, led by 5-foot-11 junior forward Alasia Smith. Aliyanna Hill (5-6, Jr.) is the starting point guard and she is surrounded by good shooters including Jelia Greenlee (5-7, So.), Erin Egerbrecht (5-9, Jr.) and Symantha Fugate (5-10, Sr.), who has played positions 1-thru-5.

Lily Cullop (5-11, Jr.) will likely start some games depending on the matchup, while Maddy Richmond (5-7, Sr.), Sierra Livingston (5-7, So.) and Yabre Garcia (5-3, Jr.) could provide opposing teams with other tough matchups.

Science Hill has made a couple of significant coaching changes with former girls coach Greg Goulds and recent Lady 'Toppers star Gabby Lyon coming on as assistants.

"We're not very big, but we're fast. We only have two seniors in our program, Maddy Richmond and Symantha Fugate," Science Hill coach Scottie Whaley said. "Alasia is our leader, someone who plays hard all the time. Coach Goulds has come in and helped us with our press. The kids have been very receptive to him and we were thrilled to get Gabby back."

DOBYNS-BENNETT

The Lady Indians feature one of the league's premier players, Courtney Whitson, who recently de-committed from ETSU, and perhaps the most depth with coach Bill Francis saying that everyone on the varsity roster can play.

In naming a starting lineup, Jaden Potts will be the point guard, with the versatile Whitson, a 6-footer, at the two guard. Bethany Welty, Peyton Domby and Ta-Tionna White are other starters, while key bench contributors look to be Megan Ayers, Caitlyn Wallace and Jabrea Johnson.

Although D-B lost three guards to graduation, Francis maintains D-B is going to be better than in the past.

"All 13 girls can play. I mean all 13," Francis said. "We went down and scrimmaged some Knoxville teams. We had a couple injured, but we played Farragut, we played Maryville and we played fine."

DANIEL BOONE

After coming off a 30-win season and the school’s first-ever Class AAA state tournament appearance, the Lady 'Blazers have the task of replacing Northeast Tennessee player of the year Macie Culbertson, and other stars like Sydney Pearce and Emily Sizemore.

There is also a coaching change with Beau Hauldren, an assistant on the boys' team last year, taking over for Travis Mains. Still, Boone has good returning talent, starting with team captains Bayleigh Carmichel, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, and Jaycie Jenkins, a 5-foot-11 junior forward.

Other projected starters are Kayla Gibson at the point, Madi Runnels and Jaiden Clark.

Olivia Miller, a transfer from Science Hill, will be eligible to play in December. Hauldren said other athletes like Greyson Stevens and McKenna Dietz will help. Seniors Jonna Casey and Grace Carroll should also contribute.

"We're old, but in some spots, we're not real experienced," Hauldren said. "Bayleigh and Jaycie are the only two who have played significant minutes on varsity. The girls committed to the weight room in the summer and they've gotten stronger. They're going to be alright."

CHEROKEE

Experience is a key word for the Lady Chiefs, featuring six seniors led by 5-foot-9 guard Harper Russell. Athletically gifted, Russell has competed at the state championship meets in both track and cross country.

Other seniors include Lauren Smith, Kennedy Cowan, Karah Alvis, Hannah Collins and Mataylin Goins. While the six seniors are leaders, head coach Jason Lawson said that all 10 girls on the varsity roster will play.

"Harper broke 1,000 points last season and we expect her to be fluid running the team offensively," Lawson said. "Hopefully, we can get some good quality shots and have been working on our sets to create more quality shots. We have to figure out how to use our quickness and our speed to our advantage."

DAVID CROCKETT

Longtime boys coach Tony Gordon, who served as a Crockett assistant most recently, has been re-energized taking over the girls program.

Emma Gouge, a 5-foot-7 sophomore and a leading scorer from last season, returns to the starting lineup along with junior guard Karolina Palomino, Mackenzie Baldwin, Alyssa Suits and freshman guard Emily Trivette.

The starting lineup isn't set in stone as Gordon promises to use different lineups to develop multiple scoring options.

He's excited to get 5-foot-11 senior Kara Weems on the court. Weems, the Johnson City Press pitcher of the year in softball and recent Milligan College signee, has been all-in in basketball. With other contributors like Halle Scott, Madison Day and Mattie Miller, Gordon believes Crockett can surprise some people.

"I have confidence in our kids, how hard they work," Gordon said. "We'll defend you and I trust we will compete."

TENNESSEE HIGH

A familiar face returns to the sideline as Kim Bright returns as the Lady Vikings coach after being a spectator for the past decade.

"It feels great, feels like home," Bright said. "Our (coaching) staff is like family and we have a strong tradition in basketball and we hope to get it back to where it needs to be."

She faces some challenges as 5-foot-9 guard LynLeigh Rhodes is the team's only senior. Sophomore Riley Fritts and junior Kenzie Nickels have varsity experience, but other than that it's limited. The rest of the junior class includes Vanessa Le, Autumn Cathey, Annessa Pennington, Faith Stigall, Alexa Lewis and Lakelyn Ziegler, a standout athlete as an all-state swimmer.

VOLUNTEER

New Volunteer coach Tyrone Smith promises a fun style of play, more run and gun than in the past, and a system based on ball movement to copy the Golden State Warriors.

Projected starters include Bryna Minton, who is recovered from an injury suffered last season, and Atlee Dean, Chloe Sayler, Kenady Knittel and Allie Parsons. There are times when the Lady Falcons could have five guards on the floor. Other seniors Emma Bice, Autumn Deal, Kiersten Trent and Tieran Whaley, along with juniors Tinsley Whalen, Kiley Trent and Madison Sanderlin all will likely see action in Smith's system.

"I believe in strong, hard-nosed defense and having a lot of girls come in," Smith said. "I want us running. I love watching the Golden State Warriors and I want a lot of shots. Shoot the three and guard them hard. We want to play fast and defend fast. If you defend well, that gets you easier shots than running plays."

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