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Area teams absent from AP basketball polls

Douglas Fritz • Jan 15, 2019 at 12:57 AM

Area teams may look more like “Where’s Waldo?” than John Hancock in terms of the statewide basketball picture.

The Associated Press released its first Tennessee high school poll of the season Monday, and no Tri-Cities-area team was ranked in the top 10. At least to this point, the 2018-19 season hasn’t been playing out like a banner year for local teams.

It doesn’t mean things won’t change, and it doesn’t mean a special season isn’t in the offing for an area squad. But the road ahead does bring more of a cloudy forecast as opposed to partly sunny.

Here’s an early snapshot of the postseason view for the top area teams:

BOYS

Its loss to Tennessee High didn’t muddy the postseason waters, but Dobyns-Bennett — along with the Vikings and Science Hill, if the Hilltoppers hit a second-half groove — faces a potential roadblock down Knoxville way when the sectional rolls around. The Indians, ranked No. 13, already know how they match up with Bearden after last year’s sectional loss. They also witnessed the Bulldogs’ Arby’s Classic title this year.

But No. 5 Bearden isn’t the big dog from Region 2 right now. It’s No. 4 Maryville, which has lost only to Division II’s unbeaten Baylor. Maryville defeated Bearden 61-60 on Dec. 14.

In Class AA, Elizabethton has emerged as the top state-tournament threat from Region 1, getting enough votes to place No. 13. But No. 6 Austin-East and No. 7 Fulton, the top teams from Region 2, are never friendly faces for area squads — even if the local team plays at home in the sectional.

Class A currently provides the best path. Clearing out some private schools means teams like University High and Hampton are in the Murfreesboro conversation. UH was ranked No. 11 in the first poll, a couple of points ahead of Region 1 mate Hancock County.

GIRLS

Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill have put together strong enough starts to sneak into the statewide background. But the problem for these teams is a tough region.

One of them will likely have to navigate Morristown West, which already owns a 26-point win over D-B. The other will likely have to meet Jefferson County, which avenged an earlier loss to D-B on Saturday. And the Lady Indians defeated Science Hill in their first meeting; the rematch is Friday.

Even if the Lady Indians or ’Toppers reach the sectional, the Knoxville area is loaded with No. 2 Maryville, No. 5 Oak Ridge, No. 7 Bearden and No. 10 Campbell County.

In Class AA, Sullivan Central already lost to No. 6 South Greene by 43 points and No. 11 Grainger by 11, so even escaping the region could be tough.

In Class A, Cloudland would likely have to navigate No. 11 North Greene and No. 10 Cosby at the region level before a potential step up to a team like No. 6 Tellico Plains at the sectional level.

BORDER BOWL PARTICIPANT

Happy Valley’s Michael Harrah is the only local football player on Tennessee’s roster for the 2019 Food City Border Bowl all-star game.

Harrah, a placekicker and punter, and Tennessee play Georgia on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Sevier County’s stadium in Sevierville.

North Carolina meet Kentucky at noon. It is the 11th year of game, which became a multistate event in 2018.

Boys Basketball Games of the Week

TUESDAY

Sullivan Central at Elizabethton

Sullivan South at Johnson County

FRIDAY

Dobyns-Bennett at Science Hill

Johnson County at Elizabethton

Sullivan South at Sullivan Central

Never mind the overall record, Science Hill begins the week in a first-place tie with the Indians and Tennessee High. However, D-B won the first meeting between these rivals. …

If it seems like there’s a dogfight matchup in the Three Rivers every week, it’s because the league is tough and deep. Sullivan South is having a good season, but this week presents two big road challenges. …

Meanwhile, if Johnson County is going to have a chance to win the Three Rivers title, it can’t afford a second loss to the front-running Cyclones.

Boys basketball rankings

Trends in both directions forced some movement in this week’s boys basketball top 10. Struggling Science Hill dropped a spot to No. 5 and Johnson County, a winner in eight straight games, moved up to No. 4.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett (16-3) — 1

2. Elizabethton (12-3) — 2

3. Tennessee High (15-5) — 3

4. Johnson County (13-5) — 5

5. Science Hill (10-11) — 4

6. Sullivan South (16-6) — 8

7. University High (13-3) — 9

8. Daniel Boone (7-8) — 7

9. Sullivan East (13-9) — 6

10. Hampton (13-7) — 10

Girls Basketball Games of the Week

TUESDAY

Cherokee at Science Hill

Happy Valley at Sullivan East

FRIDAY

Dobyns-Bennett at Science Hill

Happy Valley at Unicoi County

North Greene at Unaka

Science Hill likely faces a must-win situation Friday with the Lady Indians coming to town and holding a head-to-head win over the Lady Hilltoppers. …

Happy Valley gets a chance to prove its surprising run into second place is no fluke with a pair of challenging road games.

Girls basketball rankings

D-B slipped up Saturday, but Science Hill also lost to a non-league foe. The Lady Indians retained the top spot in this week’s girls top 10.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett (17-3) — 1

2. Science Hill (17-3) — 2

3. Daniel Boone (11-7) — 3

4. Sullivan Central (12-9) — 4

5. Cherokee (13-5) — 6

6. Cloudland (11-5) — 8

7. Unicoi County (9-5) — 7

8. Happy Valley (13-5) — 9

9. Johnson County (6-8) — 5

10. Sullivan South (11-9) — 10

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