Elizabethton may be the exception.
The Lady Cyclones will add a player to the mix that could alter their district tournament trajectory. Kaitlin Bailey will become eligible for varsity action Wednesday. Elizabethton will have two games with her in the lineup prior to the beginning of the district.
Head coach Lucas Andrews said he believes his team is capable of making loud noise in the district.
“I don’t think it’s too much to say that,” said Andrews. “We are at Elizabethton, and Elizabethton has had that standard. And with the way the league is, where anybody can beat anybody, in the tournament you just never know.
“With us having a full roster and everybody getting healthy, it gives us more depth and we can do a few things differently. The girls are really excited to get to the district.”
Bailey transferred from Unicoi County to Elizabethton in early February of 2018. Without a bonafide change of address, Bailey was forced by TSSAA rules to sit out for 12 months. She was allowed to participate in practices and has been playing with the Lady Cyclones’ junior varsity team all season.
The 6-foot junior’s insertion into the Lady Cyclones’ playing-time mix could make Elizabethton a lot different than its record suggests.
“We have played her from positions one through five,” said Andrews. “She handles the ball well, and also has the ability to post up and score.”
Bailey was one of the key players for Unicoi County as a sophomore — averaging nine points, six rebounds and two assists per game — so it’s not like she will catch the league by surprise. But she could be the missing piece to a puzzle that has kept the Lady Cyclones from stringing wins together.
“She has had a great season,” said Andrews. “Obviously you wish you had her on the varsity the whole time, but she was able go through the summer, play on the JV, and learn the system.”
Elizabethton gets two major tests prior to the district. The Lady Cyclones play at Sullivan Central on Friday and are home to face Dobyns-Bennett on Saturday. There is no pressure to win either game, and even a tight four-quarter showing could create postseason confidence.
“Everybody knows Central is at the top of the league, and D-B is at the top of its league with Science Hill,” said Andrews, whose team will play Science Hill on Tuesday without Bailey. “It gives her two games to get in the flow and get everybody used to her on the court before we start the tournament. Those two games will test what we can and can’t do."
The District 1-A basketball tournament has been moved to Sullivan North. It will begin on Feb. 15 and run through Feb. 19.
It was originally scheduled to be played at Unaka.
Here’s the rundown for Wednesday’s signing day:
A pair of football players will make it official with lineman Cade Salyers signing to play with the University of Richmond and quarterback Lendon Redwine making UVA-Wise his choice.
Six athletes will sign, including Chase Diehl with Southern Illinois for wrestling. Drew Morrison will go with Carson-Newman for football.
Softball teammates Casey Bennett (Chattanooga State) and Makenzie Smith (Union College) will make it official. Also, Patrick Brown (soccer, University of Pikeville) and Gracie Duncan (women’s soccer, Southern Virginia) will put ink to their decisions.
Lineman Garrett Jennings will put his signature to paper for Eastern Kentucky while quarterback Carter Everett is headed to Tusculum. Running back Austin Outland will sign with Emory & Henry.
Boys basketball games of the week
Tennessee High at Dobyns-Bennett
Elizabethton at Science Hill
Sullivan East at Johnson County
North Greene at Hampton
Elizabethton at Sullivan Central
Johnson County at Sullivan South
Dobyns-Bennett at Elizabethton
It’s time to settle the Big Seven Conference title. The Indians traveled to Viking Hall on Jan. 11 and came away with a 61-60 loss. It was D-B’s only in-state loss of the season, and the Tribe has won eight in a row since that setback with six blowouts along the way. Tennessee High has won 11 of its last 12, including Saturday’s 99-44 smash-mouth win over rival Virginia High.
It should be a dandy game with the Indians’ home court given them the favorite’s edge. …
Johnson County has business to attend to if the Longhorns want to have a shot at sharing the Three Rivers Conference title with Elizabethton. They will be favored in both games, but only slightly. …
Elizabethton has built plenty of momentum throughout the season, but the season-ending week is a challenging one schedule-wise. First, the Cyclones will try for a rare season sweep of non-league rival Science Hill before trying to finish with an 11-1 Three Rivers mark when they take on Central. Then they face a rematch with a team that crunched them by 26 points Saturday. …
Hampton beat North Greene by only two points on the road. Now the Bulldogs have to hold off the Huskies at home to have a chance to stay toe to toe with University High at the top of the Watauga Valley Conference.
Boys basketball rankings
There was more movement than usual in this week’s High School Top 10.
Team (W-L) — Prv
1. Dobyns-Bennett (23-3) — 1
2. Johnson County (22-4) — 2
3. Tennessee High (21-6) — 4
4. Elizabethton (18-5) — 3
5. Daniel Boone (10-11) — 6
6. Science Hill (13-14) — 7
7. Sullivan South (19-9) — 5
8. Hampton (19-8) — 9
9. Sullivan East (17-11) — 10
10. University High (19-5) — 8
Girls basketball games of the week
Unicoi County at Sullivan Central
Science Hill at Cherokee
Elizabethton at Sullivan Central
Unaka at North Greene
Sullivan Central will try to finish a perfect league mark with a pair of home games.
Unaka could have a chance Friday to spin the Watauga Valley Conference into a three-way tie if the Lady Rangers, North Greene and Cloudland take care of other business.
Girls basketball rankings
Sullivan South, riding a four-game winning streak, jumps two spots to No. 7.
Team (W-L) — Prv
1. Science Hill (23-3) — 1
2. Dobyns-Bennett (22-5) — 2
3. Daniel Boone (18-9) — 3
4. Sullivan Central (17-9) — 4
5. Cherokee (17-8) — 5
6. Cloudland (19-6) — 6
7. Sullivan South (16-10) — 9
8. Unicoi County (14-8) — 7
9. Happy Valley (15-9) — 8
10. Sullivan East (12-16) — 10