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Final stage: NET hoops teams ready for districts

Douglas Fritz • Feb 12, 2018 at 3:51 PM

After a season of jockeying for position, Northeast Tennessee basketball teams begin the final stage this week.

And no matter what happened during the regular season, every team starts afresh — although difficult seeding could make the road rockier for some.

It wasn’t a banner year for Northeast Tennessee with only three teams reaching the 20-win mark on the boys’ side: Dobyns-Bennett, Science Hill and Johnson County. But perhaps the postseason will help paint a different picture.

Here’s a look at the six area district tournaments. Play starts Monday and runs through Tuesday of next week.

1-AAA boys at David Crockett

It was a dead heat in the regular season for top-seeded Science Hill and No. 2 Dobyns-Bennett. The Hilltoppers coined-flipped their way to the top, but the Indians appear to have a little more momentum, winning 15 of their last 16 games. But then again, the Hilltoppers have won 11 of 12 with their only loss to D-B.

It’s difficult to call a favorite here, so maybe the coin flip will have to suffice. D-B’s win over Science Hill was razor thin, and a championship rematch would likely be a dandy — befitting the longtime rivalry between these basketball powers.

Washington County provides a pair of dark horses in David Crockett and Daniel Boone, but the Trailblazers aren’t at full strength health-wise.

PREDICTED WINNER: Dobyns-Bennett

DARK HORSE: David Crockett

1-AA boys at Elizabethton

It wasn’t a dominant run to the title, but Unicoi County did what it needed to do. Repeating the same level of performance in the tournament seems reasonable.

However, this league has some serious contenders in Sullivan East and Johnson County. Both of them own victories over the Blue Devils, so the threat is real.

And No. 4 see Elizabethton is much better than its 20-loss record indicates. If the Cyclones defeat Sullivan South for a third time this season, they would meet Unicoi — a team they nearly beat on the Blue Devils’ home court a couple of weeks ago.

PREDICTED WINNER: Unicoi County

DARK HORSE: Elizabethton

1-A boys at Daniel Boone

Hampton is the favorite, but like the Class AA bunch, there’s not a significant separation between the Bulldogs and their challengers. The ’Dogs clicked off seven straight wins in January but then lost three out of four, including an 18-point setback at North Greene a week ago.

This event has the potential for plenty of tight games, with dark horse candidates even down to No. 5 seed Sullivan North.

PREDICTED WINNER: Hampton

DARK HORSE: Cloudland

1-AAA girls

As was expected, Daniel Boone ruled this league without a loss. However, two tight wins over Science Hill left the door open for speculation the Lady Hilltoppers could pull off a district surprise by winning the third matchup.

No. 3 seed Dobyns-Bennett is also solid and a threat to Science Hill if the teams meet in the semifinals.

Winning the title could be greatly beneficial for region success as it would likely postpone a potential matchup with Morristown West (21-2) until the finals. West accentuated its standing as a postseason threat last week when it won 58-56 on Class AA state power South Greene’s home court.

PREDICTED WINNER: Daniel Boone

DARK HORSE: Dobyns-Bennett

1-AA girls

Sullivan Central’s record isn’t overwhelming at 14-9, but the Lady Cougars play hard and have talent. They earned the top seed by winning three close league games early (Happy Valley by two, Sullivan East by four and Johnson County by three) before finishing strong with seven wins in their last eight contests.

Unicoi County and Sullivan South are in the threat mix while Sullivan East is lurking in the background.

PREDICTED WINNER: Unicoi County

DARK HORSE: Sullivan South

1-A girls

This is a four-team race. Throw out the seedings and the regular-season matchups.

Hampton has been a steady force, but North Greene is very capable. Unaka and Cloudland both have enough horses to run for the roses.

Unaka has the most momentum with four straight wins. North Greene and Hampton have two of three while Cloudland has lost six of its last 10 games.

PREDICTED WINNER: Unaka

DARK HORSE: Cloudland

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