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Cougars, Cyclones expected to battle for 3 Rivers title

Jeff Birchfield • Nov 22, 2019 at 1:12 AM

Sullivan Central and Elizabethton are expected to have a heated battle for the top spot in the Three Rivers Conference in girls basketball.

Following is a look at each of the league’s teams.

Coaches’ picks

1. Sullivan Central

2. Elizabethton

3. Johnson County

4. Sullivan South

5. Happy Valley

6. Sullivan East

7. Unicoi County

SULLIVAN CENTRAL

The majority of the Three Rivers coaches see the Lady Cougars as preseason favorites. They feature the high-low game of 5-foot-6 senior point guard Peyton Sams and 6-2 senior center Abbey Crawford, who recently signed with Wofford.

Avery Leming (5-9, Sr.), Macy McClellan (5-8, Jr.) and Jaelyn West (5-10, So.) round out a starting lineup for Central, which won last year’s conference title before finishing 19-13 with a loss in the region quarterfinals.

Experience prevails throughout the lineup, which features reserves Parker Hurd (5-7, Sr.), Katie Horne (5-7, Jr.), Kylie Harrison (5-9, Jr.), Allison Lambert (5-9, So.), Emma Niebruegge (5-7, So.) and Noemi Morales (5-6, Jr.).

ELIZABETHTON

Back at full strength, the defending District 1-AA champions look to challenge for the league title.

After dealing with injuries much of last season, the Lady Cyclones went 11-22 and lost in the region semifinals.

They are stacked with a talented starting lineup featuring guards Torrie Roberts (5-4, Jr.), Kaylen Shell (5-10, Sr.) and Cheyenne VanHuss (5-7, Sr.). They have plenty of talent on the front line in Morgan Headrick (6-2, Jr.) and Kaitlin Bailey (6-2, Sr.), whose versatility allows her to play multiple positions.

Key reserves are Kelsie Winters (5-5, Sr.), McKendra Norris (5-8, Jr.) and Renna Lane (5-8 Fr.). Other promising freshman are Olivia Holly, Lina Lyon, Maddie Fowler and Katie Lee.

JOHNSON COUNTY

Experience is a key word for the Lady Longhorns, who have six seniors and four juniors on a team that went 13-15 last season and fell in the district quarterfinals.

Seniors Natalie Winters (5-4) and Taylor Cox (5-4) are at the point and shooting guard spots and junior Sadie Stout (5-11) is on the wing.

Taylor Parsons (5-10, Sr.) is at forward with Emmy Miller (5-10, Jr.) also in the post.

Tiffany Price and Abby Cornett are key reserves at guard, along with Abby Lipford. Rhiannon Icenhour and Hazlee Kleine offer more depth down low.

SULLIVAN SOUTH

Senior Mckenzie Littleton brings experience at point guard for the Lady Rebels, who are coming off a 20-12 season in which they reached the region semifinals.

Sophomore Colleen Coughlin is at shooting guard and senior Alex Harris is at the other wing. Seniors Nicole Troutman and Abby Compton give South more experience inside.

There’s not a ton of dropoff from the first to the second five, the latter of which comprises Makkenzie Compton, Bradlie Warner, Allie Jordan, Suzie Chatman and Chloe Nelson.

HAPPY VALLEY

Shalyn Whitson, a 6-1 senior post who averaged 13 points and seven rebounds last season, leads a Lady Warriors team that went 16-11 a year ago and lost in the district quarterfinals.

Olivia Absher — a 5-8, high-energy point guard — makes Happy Valley go. Emily Lunceford, the team’s top rebounder, gets plenty of minutes and sophomore guard Autumn Henegar is expected to move into a big role.

Other contributors could include junior guards Emma Blevins and Casey Campbell and sophomore Holly Moore. There are six freshmen — Keili Hall, Kenzie Ramsey, Gabby Wood, Ashlyn McNally, Alexis McNally and Kadie Bailey — coach Thomas Gouge is high on.

SULLIVAN EAST

Sophomore Hayley Grubb could be a big scorer for the Lady Patriots this season. She’s joined by plenty of other talent, including senior Morgan Bringman, sophomore Riley Nelson and junior Emma Aubrey.

Mabel Olsen and Ashley Nunley are also seniors on an East squad that finished 13-18 and reached the district quarterfinals.

Reece Rutledge and Amelia Malcolm fill out the sophomore class. Talented freshmen Hannah Hodge, Gracie Ralston and Jenna Hare round out the roster.

UNICOI COUNTY

The Lady Blue Devils could spring some surprises with a lineup that has Tenley Holt (5-6, Jr.) at the point, Caroline Podvin (5-10, Jr.) at the 2 guard and Kaylia Street (5-5, Sr.) at the wing.

Ashtan Vance (5-8, Sr.) can play guard or forward. Other potential starters are Leah Edney (5-5, Jr.), Abigail Rush (5-5, So.) and Hannah Shelton (5-6, So.).

Jayla Stockfelt, Laurel Osborne and Jocelyn Metcalf are other key reserves for Unicoi County, which finished 16-13 last season and fell in the region quarterfinals. Marissa Soulier and Emma Griffith also look to battle for playing time.

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