December tournaments help prepare for postseason

Douglas Fritz • Dec 16, 2013 at 6:07 PM

While it's not February, some teams use December basketball tournaments as a building block for postseason success.Science Hill started the trend back in the late 1980s. The Hilltoppers would go into the Arby's Classic with both fists up, but often times wound up battered and bruised from the experience.However, head coach George Pitts' teams were tough to beat once they figured out what few weaknesses they had. It was a very successful formula that caught the attention of other programs.These days, just about everybody plays in a tournament of some sort over the schools' Christmas break, both boys and girls teams. Sometimes a team's postseason seriousness can be judged by the level of tournament it enters in December.On the boys' side, Science Hill will get a taste of the Cleveland Shootout this weekend before heading to Orlando, Fla., for a full-tournament event.Johnson County, Sullivan East, Dobyns-Bennett, Sullivan South and Tennessee High will participate in the Arby's Classic after Christmas. Elizabethton, Sullivan North, Cloudland and Volunteer will play in Sullivan North's tourney.David Crockett heads to Maryville while Boone and Sullivan Central travel to Florida. Unicoi County and Unaka will play in Knox Bearden's tournament while Hampton lines up in Harriman.On the girls' side, the Lady Hilltoppers join the boys in Orlando while Elizabethton makes its way to Spartanburg, S.C.In a local event at Daniel Boone, the Lady Trailblazers will play host for David Crockett, Hampton, Happy Valley, Unaka, Johnson County, Cloudland, Sullivan South, Sullivan East and University High.Unicoi County goes to Knox Fulton, Dobyns-Bennett travels to Cleveland, Sullivan Central hits the road to Florida, and Tennessee High goes across the mountain to Asheville, N.C.— — —Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz.— — —Happy Valley and Daniel Boone's girls will participate in the 16th annual Frank “Doc” Maples Holiday Hoops Invitational at Viking Hall this week.The Lady Warriors will open against Virginia's Floyd County on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the seven-team field. Boone will play South Atlanta, Ga., on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Between those games, Volunteer plays Chattanooga Howard at 7 o'clock.The semifinals are scheduled for Friday at 6:30 and 8 p.m. while the championship contest is set for Saturday at 6 o'clock.— — —Boys basketball games of the week: (Today) Dobyns-Bennett at Tennessee High, (Friday) Science Hill vs. Oak Ridge at Cleveland, Unicoi County at Elizabethton.Tennessee High has been a bit of a surprise early this season, especially with its win over David Crockett last week. So the Vikings are a threat to the Indians, who were the preseason favorite to win the Big Seven Conference title. …Science Hill has enjoyed a nice little distance rivalry with the Wildcats, and this one is on neutral turf. …Elizabethton's loss at Sullivan East on Friday makes the home battle against the Blue Devils almost a must-win situation.— — —Boys player of the week — Calvin Songster of Science Hill.After taking a background role in a blowout win over Sullivan Central on Tuesday, the Hilltoppers' standout had two of the best games of his career.Songster totaled 34 points in Friday's 75-51 win over Christian Academy of Knoxville. The senior came back with 27 points in a tight 65-62 win over Knox Webb on Saturday, including four free throws in the final 14.5 seconds of the game.— — —Boys pick of the week — Dobyns-Bennett 58, Tennessee High 55.It should be quite a battle, but the Indians' ability to hold their own inside the paint against the Vikings gives them a slight advantage.Picks record: 1-1.— — —Unicoi County's stay at the top didn't last long as the Blue Devils were clipped by Hampton, which used that win and one over Elizabethton to jump four spots in this week's Prep Top 10.Team W-L Prv1. Science Hill 11-2 22. Unicoi County 10-1 13. Tennessee High 7-2 64. Dobyns-Bennett 6-3 55. David Crockett 9-4 36. Hampton 8-2 107. Sullivan South 6-4 78. Johnson County 6-4 99. Elizabethton 6-4 410. Daniel Boone 7-6 8— — —Girls basketball games of the week: (Today) Unicoi County at Cloudland, Hampton at South Greene, (Friday) Unicoi County at Elizabethton.Many teams scatter off for tournaments this week, but the Lady Blue Devils have a couple of very tough road challenges. …Hampton has an opportunity to take a big step forward in the Watauga Valley Conference, but it won't be easy on the road.— — —Girls player of the week — Kayla Marosites of Elizabethton.Leading her team to a pair of victories, the Lady Cyclones' sophomore totaled 44 points. She hit for 33 in a 64-41 whipping of Hampton on Tuesday, then came back with 11 in a 64-47 victory over Sullivan East on Friday.— — —Girls pick of the week — Cloudland 57, Unicoi County 50.Coming off a tough loss against South Greene that ended an eight-game winning streak, the Lady Highlanders should be hungry for a quick bounce-back victory.Picks record: 2-0.— — —Science Hill and Elizabethton are holding strong at the top in this week's girls rankings.Team W-L Prv1. Science Hill 12-0 12. Elizabethton 9-1 23. Cloudland 10-2 34. Sullivan South 7-2 45. Sullivan East 11-3 66. Daniel Boone 8-5 77. Hampton 7-3 58. South Greene 11-3 89. Volunteer 13-3 910. Unicoi County 5-5 10(tie) North Greene 8-4 nr

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