BRISTOL, Tenn. - The District 1-AAA basketball tournament, in complying with a new TSSAA regulation, will be marching to a different beat this year.
Teams no longer are allowed to play on more than two nights during the school week, thus forcing tourney officials to allow a longer time frame for completion of the event.
Thus, the tourney's schedule has been extended from Feb. 12 to Feb. 21 at Viking Hall.
Tipoff for the boys will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday when Daniel Boone (9-19) takes on Sullivan South (10-18). The second game, at 7:45, will pit Sullivan East (11-19) against David Crockett (11-18).
By virtue of earning the No. 1 seed, Dobyns-Bennett (20-7) has a free pass to the Region 1 tournament. The Indians tied with Science Hill (27-6) for the Big 9 Conference championship and got the top spot because they beat the Hilltoppers twice.
D-B coach Charlie Morgan, whose team has momentum going, is leery of the time table.
"It's going to be a good tournament,'' he said, "but at this time of year we don't like a long layoff. Getting the rest that comes with it is good, but basketball is all about timing.
"We have to find a way to keep our focus. We'll scrimmage and that should give us a chance to look at what we need to work on.''
D-B won't have the same pressure as the other eight ballclubs.
"We're already in the region,'' Morgan said. "We won't have the usual pressure that comes with a first-night appearance. However, we'd like to go with a hot poker. We don't want to think about cooling off now.
"Anything can happen in a tournament - you can have an off night and be gone.''
The Boone-South winner will advance to play Science Hill at 6 p.m. on Friday. Either East or Crockett will go against host Tennessee High at 7:45 that night. All are in the lower bracket.
Blake Moncier has set the Boone scoring pace with 13.3 points per game. South's Aaron Willey, whose scoring average is 15.9, also leads his team in rebounding.
East's offensive leader is Isaac Snapp, who averages 17.5 ppg. Caleb Day (12.5 ppg) heads up Crockett's balance attack.
Science Hill's top gun is 6-foot-5 guard Omar Wattad, who recently broke the school's career record with 2,188 points.
D-B, situated in the upper bracket, awaits the Sullivan Central-Volunteer winner and won't play until 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 19. Central (20-11) will meet the Falcons (19-10) at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday.
Volunteer's Keith Cradic, a junior guard, is the No. 2 scorer (19.5 ppg) in Northeast Tennessee. Central's big scorers are Wes Baker (17.3 ppg) and Justin Hess (15.9 ppg).
The season has played out for Morgan's D-B team almost as if it were scripted by him.
On media day in November, he indicated the Indians might be peaking around district tourney time. He knew that star guard Coty Sensabaugh, who'd suffered a broken ankle playing football, would miss half the season. The Indians went through some turbulence before things began to click.
When Sensabaugh returned during the Arby's Classic, D-B's outlook changed.
"After Coty came back against Martinsville, everything started falling into place,'' Morgan said. "In his absence, our kids hung in there. They became mentally tough.''
D-B's strength centers around defense and rebounding.
The District 2-AAA tourney will start Wednesday at Newport, with Greeneville (28-2) the odds-on favorite. The Greene Devils boast one of the state's leading prospects in 6-7 Antwaine Wiggins.
Four teams each from Districts 1 and 2 will emerge for the region meet. Semifinals and finals will be at Sullivan South, with preceding action being in a satellite structure.
The District 1-AA semifinals and finals will be played in Crockett's gym. Watauga Conference champion Unicoi County (23-6) is the favorite.
Satellite games at the home sites of higher seeded teams will lead up to the Final Four. Sullivan North (12-17) will travel to West Greene on Friday night for one of these satellite matchups.
Players to watch are Unicoi County's Ike Weaver, Johnson County's Devin Shaw and Austin Phipps, West Greene's Jesse Bible, Elizabethton's Micah Collie and Sullivan North's David Joyner and Dustin Doran.
Joyner reached the 1,000-point milestone in Friday's win over Elizabethton.
Class AA teams will move on to the region at Chuckey-Doak Middle School in Afton. That tourney also will have a satellite format at the beginning.
In District 1-A, a grouping of small-enrollment schools, the entire tourney is set for Chuckey-Doak High School, with the action tipping off Thursday.
University High (20-6) - led by guard Aaron Woodacre, Northeast Tennessee's top scorer at 23.5 ppg - is considered the 1-A team to beat, with Hampton and Cloudland the next strongest contenders.
Clinch, enjoying its winningest season ever, will be competing in the District 2-A event at Harrogate. The Wildcats will open play Thursday at 7 p.m. against J. Frank White Academy.
Dustin Murrell, a standout for Clinch, is averaging 18.9 points, 4.0 assists and 3.7 steals.
State tournaments will be at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro, with girls playing March 7-10 and boys taking to the floor March 14-17.