How good is Science Hill in boys’ basketball?
When it comes down to the most important way to answer that question, the Hilltoppers have faced 22 tipoffs and were on the happy end of the scoreboard 21 times at the final buzzer.
It is the best start in 16 seasons under head coach Ken Cutlip, who has amassed 440 victories on The Hill. Considering the fact Science Hill won 37, 35, 34, 33, 32 and 31 games in different seasons under Cutlip but never started 21-1, that settles a lot of the discussion.
And this season’s only loss came against a team that plays its home games 4,573 miles away — if there was a direct, straight-line flight from Johnson City to Punahou, Hawaii.
Another measuring point is the Associated Press Class AAA state poll. Media across the state share information, so there’s an eyeball test of sorts. Science Hill holds the No. 4 spot in this week’s rankings. That would make the Hilltoppers a current favorite to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2012.
So with the glass-half-full viewpoints on the table, what about the glass-half-empty picture? It shows Science Hill’s opponents have a combined record of 223-212. The Hilltoppers have beaten 10 teams at or below the .500 mark and 11 teams who hold a winning record.
Also, in four of Science Hill’s six games in the new year, the Hilltoppers have won by five points or less.
All of the aforementioned numbers paint a picture that can be interpreted in different ways. But to best answer the original question, look at the makeup of the team.
This is a unique bunch. It is a star-less team filled with solid basketball players. Their leading scorers are barely averaging double digits for the season. Rarely does a team have such a close range of abilities between the best player and the No. 8 player.
Yes, Science Hill figures to have more dogfights as the season goes along. Dominance is not the point, nor even the expectation.
So is Science Hill a state tournament threat? The record and state ranking suggests it is. But this bunch will have to prove it.
If the Hilltoppers get clipped in league play, the naysayers might howl. But as Dobyns-Bennett showed Friday night by taking the Hilltoppers into overtime, a total team effort is the best plan of attack against Science Hill — because the Hilltoppers are a total team.
SULLIVAN COUNTY SHOWDOWN
Sullivan Central’s girls can take giant steps toward wrapping up Three Rivers Conference with a pair of wins this week.
By beating Sullivan East (Tuesday at home) and Elizabethton (Friday at home), the Lady Cougars would have a two-game lead over East — and the tiebreaker advantage with season sweeps of both teams — with four games remaining on the league schedule.
But there is another side of the picture. Sullivan East has won five straight games, four of them conference contests. The Lady Patriots are just one game behind Central, and a win would put them in prime position to reach for at least a share of the league title over the next three weeks.
It’s a tall task for East, as the Lady Cougars (19-2) haven’t lost to a Tennessee opponent all season. Their setbacks were against a team from New Jersey and a squad from Suffolk, Virginia.
Most of Central’s wins have either been blowouts or comfortable margins. They have had only three single-digit margins against in-state opponents all season: Dobyns-Bennett (40-39), Daniel Boone (55-47) and Unicoi County (48-39).
PREP HOOPS EVENT
Virginia High will play host for the 2020 FriendshipCars.com FCA Prep Showcase, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.
The event will feature 14 McDonald’s All-American nominees. Local teams participating are Virginia High, Lebanon, Abingdon, University High and Johnson County.
For games will be played Thursday, beginning at 4 p.m. There are four games Friday. Saturday’s action starts at 1 p.m. and wraps up with an 8:30 p.m. contest.
Admission is $7 on Thursday and Friday, and $8 on Saturday.
Science Hill will send a pair of football players to the next level.
Malik Bowman and Marquis Griffin will make it official Friday with Peru State College, which is located in Nebraska. The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in The New Gym.
Boys highlight games
Dobyns-Bennett at Tennessee High
North Greene at Cloudland
North Greene at University High
Unicoi County at Sullivan South
It’s a slim slate for key matchups this week as teams begin positioning themselves for district seeding.
BOYS’ TOP 10
A four-game winning streak and a thumping of Cloudland lifts Hampton up three spots in this week’s rankings.
|1. Science Hill||21-1||1|
|2. Sullivan South||18-3||2|
|4. Tennessee High||15-7||4|
|5. Daniel Boone||10-6||5|
|6. David Crockett||12-8||6|
|9. Sullivan East||10-10||7|
|(tie) University High||9-7||9|
Girls highlight games
Sullivan East at Sullivan Central
North Greene at Cloudland
Elizabethton at Sullivan Central
It’s a showdown in Roan Mountain, and the Lady Highlanders could have their hands full. North Greene’s five losses were against Northview Academy (19-1), Upperman (18-2), Cannon County (14-6) and two out-of-state foes. Cloudland’s two losses came against York Institute, which beat Cannon County, and South Greene (14-5).
It should be a dandy, and the teams will meet again on Jan. 28 in Baileyton.
GIRLS’ TOP 10
Daniel Boone used a big win over David Crockett to return to the top five in this week’s rankings.
|1. Sullivan Central||19-2||1|
|2. Science Hill||13-7||2|
|5. Daniel Boone||9-8||7|
|6. David Crockett||12-10||6|
|7. Sullivan East||14-8||8|
|9. Happy Valley||13-7||10|
|10. Unicoi County||12-9||9|