Five months of hard work comes down to 32 minutes.
Science Hill, Daniel Boone, Elizabethton and Cloudland will play girls sectional basketball contests Saturday night at 7 p.m. A win punches a ticket to the TSSAA tournament next week in Murfreesboro. A loss ends the season.
Here’s a look at what is in store for each of these area teams.
BEARDEN (29-3) at SCIENCE HILL (27-7)
The Lady Bulldogs’ résumé is impressive. Of their three losses, two were to Region 2-AAA champion Maryville — a team Bearden also defeated twice. The other loss was against No. 1-ranked and Region 3-AAA champion Bradley Central.
Plus Bearden defeated Science Hill 59-43 on Nov. 29 on a neutral court. However, Bearden is 2-0 on the Lady Hilltoppers’ home court, whipping Elizabethton and North Carolina’s Mountain Heritage during the Roundball event in early December.
“It’s a tough matchup,” said Science Hill coach Scottie Whaley. “They’ve been ranked in the top five all year. They are really big and really long.”
Bearden is led by 6-foot-3 Jakhyia Davis, who has signed to play at East Tennessee State. She was held to 10 points in the region final but had 14 in the win over Science Hill.
Other key cogs for Bearden include point guard Zneyah McLaughlin (15 points against Maryville) and wing Jah’niya Bussell (13 points). Freshman Avery Treadwell, a 6-2 post, had 17 points in the region semifinals. She had 12 in the meeting with the Lady Hilltoppers.
“They mostly play a matchup zone,” Whaley said. “Davis is a heck of a player. Treadwell is a big freshman kid who is good. The guards are really good, and they are good at what they do.”
Science Hill will try to win with an up-tempo game.
“We will try to get the pace where we want it,” Whaley said. “They will try to grind it out.”
Science Hill is led by post-wing Alasia Smith, who has been a double-double machine over the past few weeks. Jeila Greenlee, Nae Marion and Erin Egerbrecht are other scoring threats, along with Jasmin Myers.
Last time in state tournament: Bearden (2018), Science Hill (2019)
State appearances: Bearden (4), Science Hill (7)
DANIEL BOONE (20-12) at MARYVILLE (29-4)
The matchup is a tall order for the Lady Trailblazers, but so was the region semifinal contest against Jefferson County — a game Boone won in triple overtime.
Maryville lost a Hall of Fame game to Stone Memorial and got clipped in early December by Bearden and crosstown rival Heritage. Since then the Red Rebels are 23-1 with a district final loss to Bearden they quickly avenged in the region.
Maryville starts with Denae Fritz, who scored nine of her 17 points in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win over Bearden. Other key players are guards Aaliyah Vananda (15 points), Gracie Midkiff (12 points) and Katie Cunningham. Senior post Jazz Ervin is also a threat.
Boone counters with Jaycie Jenkins, who had 44 points against Jefferson County. Also in the threat mix are Maddie Runnels and Kayla Gibson.
Last time in state tournament: Boone (2018), Maryville (1999)
State appearances: Boone (3), Maryville (3)
GATLINBURG-PITTMAN (22-11) at ELIZABETHTON (23-10)
The Lady Highlanders are making a trip they’re familiar with but not one they have enjoyed. Pittman suffered back-to-back sectional losses to the Lady Cyclones in 2015 and 2016.
But this is Pittman’s sixth consecutive trip to the sectional while Elizabethton is back for the first time since 2016.
Pittman is led by post Ivy Bales, who is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds per game. Senior guard Shelby Moore had 22 points against Carter in the region final, and she’s averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per contest.
Elizabethton counters with 6-footers Kaitlin Bailey and Morgan Headrick. Other crucial players Kaylen Shell, Torrie Roberts and Lina Lyon.
Last time in state tournament: Pittman (2018), Elizabethton (2016)
State appearances: Pittman (2), Elizabethton (9)
CLOUDLAND (25-6) at ONEIDA (28-6)
The Lady Indians are making their third visit to the sectional round in the past four years and are playing their second game at home.
Among the standouts for Oneida is Region 2-A most valuable player Kendyl West, who had 17 points in the final against Wartburg. Chelsea Newport totaled 16 points in that game. Post Katelyn Stiltner is another key performer.
In terms of a common opponent, both Cloudland and Oneida lost a game at York Institute. Oneida avenged its 25-point loss 16 days later at home.
Cloudland is led by Jasmine Birchfield and Gracie Freeman. Mandy Benfield totaled 16 points in the Region 1-A final loss to North Greene.
Last time in state tournament: Cloudland (2013), Oneida (2019)
State appearances: Cloudland (5), Oneida (17)