The Indians travel to No. 2-ranked Bearden in a Class AAA sectional set for tonight at 7 p.m. At stake is a berth in next week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro.
In the Bulldogs (36-1), the Indians (29-7) are facing a team without a loss to an in-state opponent this season. Bearden’s lone setback was a 58-55 decision in the Arby’s Classic against Columbus, Miss.
“They’re an athletic and talented team, but I feel we can compete with anybody,” D-B coach Chris Poore said. “We have to have the quickness to stay in front of their guards and contest their shots, and we have the size and physicality inside to block them off the glass. Defensively, I think we can frustrate them a little. If we can make a couple of shots, maybe we can stay with them.”
The Bulldogs cruised through the Region 2-AAA tournament, winning by 29, 14 and 17 points against Karns, Oak Ridge and Powell, respectively.
The Indians had won 11 in a row before stumbling against Science Hill last Thursday, losing by two points in a game they managed to score only 35. D-B tied Science Hill for the Big 7 Conference title and won the District 1-AAA championship.
D-B is shooting for its first state tournament appearance since 2010. Bearden lost in the state quarterfinals last season.
“I’m certainly proud of this team and their accomplishments, but we’re not content,” Poore said. “We want to go to Bearden and prove not only to them, but to East Tennessee that we have a product that can compete with them. Our players have a lot of pride and they’ve put in a lot of work. I’m extremely pleased with the job that this team has done. But I’m really excited to compete against the best team in our area.”
In another Class AAA game, Science Hill will be at home against Powell.
In Class A, upstart Sullivan North has a road date with Oakdale in a game moved to Roane State Community College in Harriman and North Greene is at home against Coalfield.
In Class AA, Unicoi County hits the road to play perennial power Fulton.
Sullivan North (18-16) at Oakdale (27-6)
It’s going to be a tall order for the Golden Raiders, who make the long trip to face a team that scored 268 total points in three Region 2-A tournament wins.
Oakdale scored 100 against Lookout Valley, 78 against Rockwood and 90 in the title game against Coalfield.
“They like to play a real up-tempo game,” said North coach Travis Cain. “They like to play about nine kids and they stay after you in the man-to-man, full-court, halfcourt, and they really get up and down the floor and move. We try to play a zone and slow everybody down. So we will be complete opposites.”
Cain said his team is just having fun.
“We thought we could be competitive this year,” he said. “We’ve jelled and the boys are listening to what we’re trying to do. The assistant coaches, the players and everyone have worked together like one big family. It would be pretty sweet to make the state tournament. If we can do that, it will be special to us.”
Both teams are seeking a first-ever state tournament berth.
Science Hill (25-8) vs. Powell (21-11)
Science Hill has won 12 of its past 13 games. The Hilltoppers are coming off their fourth straight region title, and their last state tournament appearance came in 2016. They have been to the state three times under coach Ken Cutlip; the others came in 2009 and 2012. This is their 11th sectional appearance in 14 seasons under Cutlip.
Science Hill and Powell met on Nov. 18, a 66-51 win for the Hilltoppers.
Unicoi County (22-12) at Fulton (22-8)
The Blue Devils have been to this point many times in the past 13 years but haven’t been able to close the deal for a trip to Murfreesboro.
Unicoi is 0-8 in its most recent sectional trips. The Blue Devils lost at Austin-East (2005, 2008), at Fulton (2007, 2009, 2010), at Carter (2014) and in home games with Austin-East (2008) and Stone Memorial (2011).
Unicoi’s Trevor Hensley has 2,356 career points and needs just 11 to break the school’s overall all-time scoring record, which is held by Amy Engle.