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New year brings conference races into focus

Douglas Fritz • Jan 1, 2019 at 7:48 PM

January is here, which means high school basketball season gets serious and moves into full-time conference mode.

Right off the bat there are significant league games set for Friday — including Three Rivers Conference showdowns featuring Elizabethton at Sullivan South and Sullivan Central visiting The Shoun to take on Johnson County.

Here’s a brief look at the revised forecast for area leagues based on what happened in November and December:

BOYS

BIG 7 CONFERENCE

Dobyns-Bennett is still clearly the team to beat. The Indians only enhanced their stature with a strong start to the season.

Science Hill’s home win over Tennessee High gives the Hilltoppers a leg up heading into the second half, and it appears to be a three-team race. However, Volunteer is 2-0 and will retain its say until mixing it up with the top three, beginning Friday with a home game against the Hilltoppers.

Predicted order of finish: D-B, Tennessee High, Science Hill, Daniel Boone, Volunteer, David Crockett, Cherokee.

THREE RIVERS CONFERENCE

This league should produce several terrific basketball games. Elizabethton has wrestled the favorite role away from Sullivan East, which currently sits in sixth place.

Sullivan South and Johnson County look like legitimate threats while Sullivan Central is off to a surprising 3-0 start.

Predicted order of finish: Elizabethton, East, Johnson County, South, Central, Unicoi County, Happy Valley.

WATAUGA VALLEY CONFERENCE

University High has already pocketed a win over North Greene, so the Buccaneers have the early edge.

But there doesn’t appear to be a clean favorite with Hampton, Unaka and North Greene in the mix. Don’t be shocked if Sullivan North and Cloudland make some noise as well.

Predicted order of finish: University High, Hampton, Unaka, North Greene, Sullivan North, Cloudland.

GIRLS

BIG 7 CONFERENCE

Dobyns-Bennett is the team to beat, based on its early-season win over Science Hill. However, the Lady Hilltoppers have been good enough to be a secondary favorite.

Daniel Boone has faced a very tough schedule and can’t be counted out while Cherokee has been the league’s surprise team.

Predicted order of finish: D-B, Science Hill, Boone, Cherokee, David Crockett, Tennessee High, Volunteer.

THREE RIVERS CONFERENCE

An extremely tough schedule has left Sullivan Central at 10-8, but the Lady Cougars remain this league’s best team — probably by a wide margin.

They still have to prove it, and that begins on Friday night when they go on the road against second-place Johnson County.

Unicoi County is hovering in the background and could make noise near the top. The rest of the league’s teams have plenty of proving left to do.

Predicted order of finish: Central, Johnson County, Unicoi, East, South, Happy Valley, Elizabethton.

WATAUGA VALLEY CONFERENCE

It’s tough to decipher the favorite role, but North Greene probably has the best resume thus far.

Cloudland and Unaka are still very much in the conversation.

Predicted order of finish: North Greene, Cloudland, Unaka, Hampton, University High, Sullivan North.

Boys basketball Games of the Week

FRIDAY — Science Hill at Volunteer, Sullivan Central at Johnson County, Elizabethton at Sullivan South, University High at Unaka

The Buccaneers visit to Stoney Creek is always a tough rivalry battle, but there’s a little extra spice for this showdown with both teams eyeing the league’s top spot.

Boys basketball rankings

After the tournament results, there were no changes for this week’s boys basketball top 10.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett (12-2) — 1

2. Elizabethton (9-3) — 2

3. Tennessee High (11-5) — 3

4. Science Hill (8-9) — 4

5. Johnson County (10-5) — 5

6. Daniel Boone (6-6) — 6

7. Sullivan East (10-7) — 7

8. Sullivan South (13-5) — 8

9. University High (10-3) — 9

10. Hampton (10-6) — 10

Girls basketball Games of the Week

FRIDAY — Cherokee at D-B, Sullivan Central at Johnson County, University High at Unaka, Cloudland at North Greene

The Lady Chiefs get a chance to prove they are as good as their record indicates. …

UH could turn some eyes if it can pull off the road upset while Cloudland’s road challenge is a true first-place test.

Girls basketball rankings

Happy Valley jumps a spot to No. 9 for the only movement in this week’s girls basketball top 10.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett (13-3) — 1

2. Science Hill (14-2) — 2

3. Daniel Boone (8-6) — 3

4. Sullivan Central (10-8) — 4

5. Johnson County (6-5) — 5

6. Cherokee (12-4) — 7

7. Unicoi County (8-3) — 6

8. Cloudland (9-4) — 8

9. Happy Valley (9-5) — 10

10. Sullivan South (9-8) — 9

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