When postseason play rolls around, out-of-state losses generally add little to the picture of a team’s resume. And Dobyns-Bennett was one point away from a perfect regular season against in-state opponents. The Indians took a one-point loss against Tennessee High on Jan. 11 but responded with a 20-point whipping on Feb. 5.
Overall, the Indians were 24-1 against in-state foes.
Johnson County was expected to be good this season, but not to a level of being undefeated since the calendar turned to December.
And who projected Blake Atwood as a Mr. Basketball finalist back in November? He helped the Longhorns win 19 straight games and earn a share of the Three Rivers Conference title.
For folks who follow the state rankings closely, they might wonder why Manassas of Memphis didn’t get ranked in Class A boys.
The Tigers won District 15 and were 24-3 overall. Two of their losses were against Booker T. Washington, but they avenged those defeats with a 90-68 win in the most recent meeting. And on Saturday, they clubbed No. 9-ranked Westwood 70-55 for the Class A Memphis city championship.
The reason for what seemed like a snubbing was The Associated Press didn’t include the ability to select Manassas on the voting website. The mistake was pointed out earlier in the season and again over the past couple of weeks, but The AP did not make a correction. So poll voters simply did not have the opportunity to vote for the Tigers, who probably should have been in the No. 5 or No. 6 range.
It was as uneven a season as Science Hill has endured in 35 years. The Hilltoppers won three and lost three to start things and never had more than three wins or three losses in a row all season. They closed the regular season with seven losses in 11 games and need a remarkable turnaround to avoid a losing season.
Ryan Bledsoe and Harper Russell kept Cherokee’s boys and girls in the mix throughout the season. Bledsoe averaged 17 points per game, and Russell paced the girls with 20 per contest.
Bledsoe helped the Chiefs upset Tennessee High, which allowed them to earn the No. 5 seed over David Crockett. Russell helped the girls win 17 games, and the Lady Chiefs will be at home in an attempt to reach the regional tournament.
DOUBLE YOUR FUN
Happy Valley’s Bryce Carter was the area’s only boys player to average a double-double this season. He scored 15 points and grabbed 10 boards per contest.
On the girls’ side, University High’s Mauri Johnson, Science Hill’s Alasia Smith, Dobyns-Bennett’s Courtney Whitson and Elizabethton’s Kayla Shell were members of the exclusive club.
CYCLONES CONQUER THE HILL
Elizabethton usually plays Science Hill tough, but the Hilltoppers get more than their share of wins.
That wasn’t the case this year. The Cyclones pulled off a sweep of the ’Toppers with a pair of tight victories. Beating Science Hill in football makes Elizabethton 3-0 going into baseball season next month.
Can the Cyclones make it an all-sports grand slam with a fourth victory on April 29?
Sullivan East had five players who averaged 73 percent or better on free throws: Dylan Bartley, Dustin Bartley, Adam Davison, Trey Lowe and Mason Johnson. This is evidence of a team that takes the sometimes lost art seriously.
FOUL LINE MASTER
Elizabethton’s Torrie Roberts had the highest free-throw percentage among qualifying players. She ripped the nets for 86.2 percent this season, edging Johnson County’s Blake Atwood (85 percent).
Elizabethton’s Bryson Rollins and Science Hill’s Alasia Smith were two of the area’s best at getting a hand on the basketball when the other team had possession. And most times, deflections equal turnovers.
It was fun to watch the Lady Indians’ standout this season. She scored a ton of points without being selfish. She seemed most interested in scoring when the game was hanging in the balance and willing to defer to teammates when things were going smoothly.
The TSSAA snubbed her for the Miss Basketball honor roll, but she’s the type of kid who will take it in stride.
Still a junior, the Lady Hilltoppers’ standout has emerged as an all-category threat.
Science Hill has won 18 straight games against in-state competition and Smith seems to get better each game.
Sullivan South’s girls weren’t making a lot of noise with eight losses heading into the new year.
But behind the strong play of Alex Harris and Mollie Leslie, the Lady Rebels closed the regular season with nine wins in 11 games and moved all the way to the No. 2 seed for the District 1-AA tournament.
BACK ON THE MAP
University High enjoyed its best regular season in many years, racking up 22 wins and capturing the Watauga Valley Conference title.
Kaleb Meredith helped the Buccaneers elevate to the area’s best Class A team.
Cloudland still needs to find a way to solve North Greene, but the Lady Highlanders hit high gear in mid-December.
Since that point, they went 17-0 against all opponents not named North Greene, which beat Cloudland in a pair of tight battles.