BRISTOL, Tenn. - When the Big 9 Conference girls basketball coaches got together prior to the season and picked Science Hill to win the league, they all figured Tennessee High would be rebuilding.
It turns out the Lady Vikings were just reloading.
Despite losing five seniors, Tennessee High managed to win the league and earn a first-round bye in this week's District 1-AAA tournament.
And the good news doesn't end there - the Lady Vikings get to play the district tournament, which begins Monday, at home in Viking Hall after nearly a full week of rest.
Tennessee High coach Kim Bright joked that she is now a big fan of the extended break seeing as her team stands to be the beneficiary.
"Last spring when we were working on the schedule I didn't think it was a good idea, but now I think it's a great idea," Bright said. "There should be an advantage to being a one seed."
Although there was plenty of turnover on the Lady Vikings' roster, Bright said Danielle Montgomery, Nikita Jones and Tara Tranum have all stepped up and provided leadership.
While Tennessee High finds itself in a familiar position atop the league, another perennial power finds itself in unfamiliar territory.
A young Daniel Boone team struggled through some growing pains this season and will be matched up against cross-county rival David Crockett in a play-in game Monday night at 7:45.
The sixth-seeded Lady Trailblazers will try to get past the ninth-seeded Lady Pioneers and into a matchup against Dobyns-Bennett.
The Lady Indians used a strong frontcourt and a much-improved backcourt to snag the third seed.
With a five-day layoff before facing the Boone/Crockett winner on Wednesday, D-B coach Roger France plans to rest his players.
"We're going to take a couple days off," he said. "It's been a long season, a lot of games. We're going to try to get our legs back and then get ready for whoever we play."
Sabra Lawson and Blaine Frohlich have given the Lady Indians a strong 1-2 punch in the paint, but France said he's pleased with the way his guards have been playing as of late.
"They're handling the pressure better and shooting the basketball better," he said. "We're playing well, but it's a one-game shootout, so we have to come with our A game."
Meanwhile, second-seeded Science Hill will play the winner of Monday's other play-in game between seventh-seeded Volunteer and eighth-seeded Sullivan East.
The Lady Hilltoppers were picked to win the league, but the loss of point guard Ashley Menner over Christmas break led to a late-season skid in which Science Hill dropped four out of five games.
Science Hill rebounded to win its final three, and coach Darrell Barnwell thinks his team is finally finding its rhythm without Menner.
Fourth-seeded Sullivan Central and fifth-seeded Sullivan South will play Thursday to see who earns a semifinal matchup with the rested Lady Vikings on Saturday night.
Central coach Gary Surcey said youngsters like Whitney Moody and Erica Blizard have mixed well with the team's three seniors, giving the Lady Cougars good team chemistry.
South will rely on the dynamic guard duo of Samantha Williams and Natalie Pickwell along with post Grace Collins to earn a berth in the regional tournament.
In the District 1-AA tournament, Sullivan North will take on South Greene on Thursday at 7 p.m. at South Greene.
South Greene won a tiebreaker over Elizabethton in the Watauga Conference and will be the top seed.
The Lady Raiders will rely on Keisha Day, their standout senior center, as they try to pull the upset.