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How good is Science Hill? Let's look at the numbers

Douglas Fritz • Jan 21, 2020 at 12:30 PM

How good is Science Hill in boys basketball?

When it comes down to the most important way to answer that question, the Hilltoppers have faced 22 tipoffs and were on the happy end of the scoreboard 21 times at the final buzzer.

It is the best start in 16 seasons under coach Ken Cutlip, who has amassed 440 victories on The Hill. Considering the fact Science Hill won 37, 35, 34, 33, 32 and 31 games in different seasons under Cutlip but never started 21-1, that settles a lot of the discussion.

And this season’s only loss came against a team that plays its home games 4,573 miles away — if there was a direct, straight-line flight from Johnson City to Punahou, Hawaii.

Another measuring point is The Associated Press Class AAA poll. Media across the state share information, so there’s an eyeball test of sorts. Science Hill holds the No. 4 spot in this week’s rankings. That would make the Hilltoppers a current favorite to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2012.

So with the glass-half-full viewpoints on the table, what about the glass-half-empty picture? It shows Science Hill’s opponents have a combined record of 223-212. The Hilltoppers have beaten 10 teams at or below the .500 mark and 11 teams with winning records.

Also, in four of Science Hill’s six games in the new year, the Hilltoppers have won by five points or fewer.

All of these numbers paint a picture that can be interpreted in different ways. But to best answer the original question, look at the makeup of the team.

This is a unique bunch. It is a star-less team filled with solid basketball players. The leading scorers are barely averaging double digits for the season. Rarely does a team have such a close range of abilities between the best player and the No. 8 player.

Yes, Science Hill figures to have more dogfights as the season goes along. Dominance is not the point, nor even the expectation.

So is Science Hill a state tournament threat? The record and state ranking suggests it is. But this bunch will have to prove it.

If the Hilltoppers get clipped in league play, the naysayers might howl. But as Dobyns-Bennett showed Friday night by taking the Hilltoppers into overtime, a total team effort is the best plan of attack against Science Hill — because the Hilltoppers are a total team.

SULLIVAN COUNTY SHOWDOWN

Sullivan Central’s girls can take giant steps toward wrapping up Three Rivers Conference with a pair of wins this week.

By beating Sullivan East (Tuesday at home) and Elizabethton (Friday at home), the Lady Cougars would have a two-game lead over East — and the tiebreaker advantage with season sweeps of both teams — with four games remaining on the league schedule.

But there is another side of the picture. Sullivan East has won five straight games, four in conference. The Lady Patriots are just one game behind Central, and a win would put them in prime position to reach for at least a share of the league title over the next three weeks.

It’s a tall task for East; the Lady Cougars (19-2) haven’t lost to a Tennessee opponent all season. Their setbacks were against a team from New Jersey and a squad from Suffolk, Virginia.

Most of Central’s wins have either been blowouts or comfortable margins. They have had only three

single-digit margins against in-state opponents all season: Dobyns-Bennett (40-39), Daniel Boone (55-47) and Unicoi County (48-39).

PREP HOOPS EVENT

Virginia High will host the 2020 FriendshipCars.com FCA Prep Showcase, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

The event will feature 14 McDonald’s All-American nominees. Local teams participating are Virginia High, Lebanon, Abingdon, University High and Johnson County.

Four games will be held Thursday, starting at 4 p.m., and four Friday. Saturday’s action starts at 1 p.m. and concludes with an 8:30 p.m. contest.

Admission is $7 on Thursday and Friday, and $8 on Saturday.

COLLEGE SIGNINGS

Science Hill will send a pair of football players to the next level.

Malik Bowman and Marquis Griffin will make it official Friday with Peru State, which is located in Nebraska. The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in The New Gym.

BASKETBALL OVERVIEW

Boys highlight games

Tuesday — Dobyns-Bennett at Tennessee High; North Greene at Cloudland

Thursday — North Greene at University High

Friday — Unicoi County at Sullivan South

It’s a slim slate for key matchups this week as teams begin positioning themselves for district seeding.

BOYS TOP 10

A four-game winning streak and a thumping of Cloudland lifts Hampton up three spots in this week’s rankings.

Team W-L Prv
1. Science Hill 21-1 1
2. Sullivan South 18-3 2
3. Dobyns-Bennett 10-8 3
4. Tennessee High 15-7 4
5. Daniel Boone 10-6 5
6. David Crockett 12-8 6
7. Hampton 14-8 10
8. Elizabethton 5-12 NR
9. Sullivan East 10-10 7
10. Cloudland 12-7 8
(tie) University High 9-7 9

Girls highlight games

Tuesday — Sullivan East at Sullivan Central; North Greene at Cloudland

Friday — Elizabethton at Sullivan Central

The Lady Highlanders could have their hands full in the showdown in Roan Mountain. North Greene’s five losses were against Northview Academy (19-1), Upperman (18-2), Cannon County (14-6) and two out-of-state foes. Cloudland’s two losses came against York Institute, which beat Cannon County, and South Greene (14-5).

The teams will meet again on Jan. 28 in Baileyton.

GIRLS TOP 10

Daniel Boone used a big win over David Crockett to return to the top five in this week’s rankings.

Team W-L Prv
1. Sullivan Central 19-2 1
2. Science Hill 13-7 2
3. Dobyns-Bennett 16-6 3
4. Cloudland 16-2 4
5. Daniel Boone 9-8 7
6. David Crockett 12-10 6
7. Sullivan East 14-8 8
8. Elizabethton 11-8 5
9. Happy Valley 13-7 10
10. Unicoi County 12-9 9
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