BY DOUGLAS FRITZ, Johnson City Press
With the 2018-19 regular season vanishing, postseason play begins Monday.
It’s district tournament time, as area teams hit the courts for a journey they hope will last all the way to Murfreesboro and the state basketball tournament.
The Class AAA event will be at the home court of the higher seeds until moving to Daniel Boone for the semifinals. It starts Monday with one girls game.
Class AA games will be played at Happy Valley with one girls game and one boys game Wednesday. And the Class A tournament is scheduled for Sullivan North, beginning Friday with two girls and two boys games.
Girls championships are set for Feb. 18 while the boys title contests are slated for Feb. 19.
Here’s a look at how things shape up for each of the six area events:
Dobyns-Bennett proved it has some distance from the crowd with its recent 20-point win over Tennessee High, avenging the Indians’ only in-state loss.
D-B has quickness, depth, offensive firepower and tough defense, which makes the Indians the team to beat.
The Vikings have talent and have proven themselves worthy of true challenger status with 22 victories. Science Hill enters the tournament with a losing overall record at 14-15, but the Hilltoppers can’t be ignored. Their combined margin of defeat against D-B and Tennessee High in five games was only 32 points — an average loss of six points, and the Hilltoppers defeated Tennessee High once.
Dark horse: Science Hill
Predicted winner: D-B
It is difficult to pick a favorite between Johnson County and Elizabethton. Both teams are rock solid and they split their regular-season games.
With Johnson County ranked in the state’s top 10 and grabbing the No. 1 seed on a draw, the Longhorns are the very slight favorites.
Depth favors the Cyclones, which could be the tipping point when teams unveil their best postseason defensive strategies and effort is usually at its highest level.
And there is no shortage of dark horses, with all of Sullivan County vying for that designation.
Favored: Johnson County
Dark horse: Sullivan East
Predicted winner: Elizabethton
There’s a thin line of separation between University High and Hampton. These two teams may have used the regular season as a warm-up for more important postseason matchups.
Keep a steady eye on North Greene. The Huskies have enjoyed a 20-win season and are definitely a threat.
Favored: University High
Dark horse: North Greene
Predicted winner: Hampton
Science Hill is up front. The Lady Hilltoppers have steadily gotten better as the season has progressed, and appear ready for a serious postseason run.
Dobyns-Bennett is a worthy contender, especially if surrounding parts to an attack led by Courtney Whitson play their best basketball of the season.
And just like Science Hill’s boys, Daniel Boone’s girls can’t be ignored. The Lady Trailblazers made it to the state tournament last year and have plenty of postseason experience.
Favored: Science Hill
Dark horse: Daniel Boone
Predicted winner: Science Hill
It was all about Sullivan Central in the regular season, and the Lady Cougars have no reason to think they can’t repeat the performance in the district setting.
However, Elizabethton added a new player to the mix in Kaitlin Bailey, and proved it mattered. The Lady Cyclones stunned Central on Friday to prevent a perfect run through the regular-season conference schedule for the Lady Cougars.
This is a fairly even league from two through seven, so every game should be competitive.
Favored: Sullivan Central
Dark horse: Elizabethton
Predicted winner: Sullivan Central
As the regular season seemed to prove, any of three teams could walk away with the championship hardware.
North Greene’s one-point win over Unaka on Friday proved two things: The Lady Huskies are favored to win the district, but Coudland and the Lady Rangers have an almost equal shot at the title.
Favored: North Greene
Dark horse: Unaka
Predicted winner: Cloudland