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Will district excitement spill into region?

Douglas Fritz • Feb 27, 2020 at 12:30 PM

District basketball was quite a show in Northeast Tennessee, with overtime games and thrilling finishes giving fans their money’s worth.

Unfortunately for those fans, finding the same exhilaration at the next postseason level likely requires some travel for the semifinal and final rounds. Region 1 basketball gets underway Friday with the girls quarterfinals at the home sites of the highest district finishers. The boys do the same on Saturday.

But when the tournament moves to the semifinal stage, beginning with the girls Monday, the sites are Morristown East (1-AAA), Grainger in Rutledge (1-AA) and Walters State Community College in Morristown (1-A).

There is a possibility of change, however. A District 1 sweep in the girls quarterfinals in Class AAA would move that event to Science Hill for the semifinals and finals. The same scenario would hold true for the boys’ tournament. Class AAA also has a provision to move the game if two District 1 teams reach the finals.

In Class AA, it’s the same setup with the event moving to Sullivan East if there is a District 1 quarterfinal sweep. There is no provision to move the finals.

In Class A, there is not a set-in-stone plan at this time to move the tournament if there is a District 1 sweep.

Here’s a look at who’s favored in each tournament:

BOYS

1-AAA

Science Hill enters as the team to beat, without a doubt. The Hilltoppers slowed their roll toward the end of the regular season, but they were outstanding in a dominant march to the district title.

Sevier County looks like a worthy adversary on the other side of the bracket, but the Smoky Bears likely won’t have an easy time with Tennessee High in the quarterfinals or a potential semifinal matchup against Dobyns-Bennett.

As a side note, four of the last five region titles have been decided by two points or less — including Sevier County’s 56-55 win over D-B last year.

Recent champions

2019 — Sevier County

2018 — Science Hill

2017 — Science Hill

2016 — Science Hill

2015 — Science Hill

Dark horse: Dobyns-Bennett

The pick: Science Hill

1-AA

Given the competitive nature of the District 1 event, adding the top teams from District 2 to the mix should provide more tight battles.

Greeneville appears to be the real deal, navigating a tough schedule with several impressive wins. The Greene Devils are undefeated (14-0) against Class AA competition.

District 1 champion Sullivan South and Elizabethton, however, bring high-octane teams into the event. The Rebels are only a slight underdog, especially if they play with the same fervor they displayed late in the district final.

Recent champions

2019 — Greeneville

2018 — Grainger

2017 — Sullivan East

2016 — Elizabethton

Dark horse: Elizabethton

The pick: Greeneville

1-A

Cosby played a tough schedule outside of what is traditionally a weaker district. The Eagles beat Elizabethton twice and came within five points of topping Alcoa.

But this tournament is wide open. Any of four teams could walk away the winner with University High, Hampton and North Greene entering as serious contenders.

Recent champions

2019 — University High

2018 — North Greene

2017 — Hampton

2016 — Hampton

Dark horse: North Greene

The pick: Hampton

GIRLS

1-AAA

With a 13-game winning streak, Science Hill has found a groove that opponents haven’t been able to handle. All but one of those wins has been by double-digit margins.

Also, District 2 champion Jefferson County lost to the Lady Hilltoppers by 25 points back in November.

Recent champions

2019 — Science Hill

2018 — Daniel Boone

2017 — Morristown West

2016 — Morristown West

Dark horse: Daniel Boone

The pick: Science Hill

1-AA

Grainger’s body of work this season makes it the clear-cut favorite. The Lady Grizzlies are 29-2 with a 23-game winning streak, and they haven’t lost since a one-point setback to Greeneville on Dec. 6.

Sullivan Central put itself in a tough spot with the district final loss, which means Grainger likely awaits in the semifinals instead of the finals.

Elizabethton will probably have to deal with South Greene in the semifinals. The Lady Rebels have three double-digit losses to Grainger, but they have been tough to handle otherwise.

Recent champions

2019 — South Greene

2018 — Greeneville

2017 — Grainger

2016 — Elizabethton

Dark horse: Elizabethton

The pick: Grainger

1-A

Cosby and North Greene have both played tough schedules with similar records. Picking a favorite between the two probably needs to rely on history, and the only evidence is Cosby’s three-point triumph in last year’s region final.

Recent champions

2019 — Cosby

2018 — Unaka

2017 — South Greene

2016 — South Greene

Dark horse: Cloudland

The pick: Cosby

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