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Falcons, Poe enjoying life at the top

Douglas Fritz • Dec 10, 2018 at 10:41 PM

Looking at the Big 7 Conference boys basketball standings, you might notice something that seems a little out of place.

Yes, Volunteer is in a first-place tie with Dobyns-Bennett.

And the Falcons are going to be there for a while. Their next league game doesn’t come until Jan. 4.

“When we won the David Crockett game (62-60 on Dec. 4), the first thing the guys wanted to talk about was for the next four weeks we would be at the top of the league,” first-year Falcons head coach Mike Poe said with a laugh. “It’s something they had never experienced. Now we know Science Hill is the next game, and it will be a difficult challenge. But they are enjoying what they are doing and having fun.

“The school and community are excited, and to me that’s what it’s all about.”

Yes, the Falcons are only 2-0 and have 10 more Big 7 games to play. But when you consider Volunteer hasn’t won more than three conference games in any season over the last decade, 2-0 is plenty enough reason for encouragement.

Part of the optimism comes from having a veteran, and successful, head coach. Poe has been at the pinnacle, leading Science Hill to the TSSAA Class AAA title game in 2002. He continued winning games while coaching in college at Tennessee Wesleyan.

Coaches like Poe don’t grow on trees, especially for struggling programs. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise the players have listened to what Poe was saying.

“The kids get all the credit,” he said. “They bought into my message. We needed a little success along the way to make the message meaningful, because after a while if you don’t have success they tune you out. Winning a conference game in front of a tremendous crowd (83-66 over rival Cherokee), and then going to Crockett and winning a game on the road, it helped.

“I’ve had several people tell me I had to change the culture here, but I don’t think so. I think I have to start one.”

The undersized Falcons (3-6 overall) have been led by senior point guard Chance Johnson, the only player with varsity experience.

“He’s controlling the tempo,” Poe said. “He’s a bright kid. When he plays well, we’re more than competitive.”

Also making big contributions have been shooting guards Eli Churchwell and Brody Hunley. Hunter Skelton plays a small No. 4 position. Freshman Heath Miller has been solid as well, Poe noted.

The Falcons could get a little bigger around Christmas break when 6-foot-2 freshman post Garrison Barrett is expected to return from an injury.

WRESTLING UPDATE

Science Hill dropped a spot to No. 11 in the Tennessee High School Wrestling Poll released Monday.

The Hilltoppers, the TSSAA Class AAA runners-up in 2018, are ranked No. 7 among public schools.

Division II Baylor of Chattanooga is No. 1 overall, and No. 2 Cleveland is the top-ranked public school.

ALL-STAR FOOTBALL GAME

The West crushed the East 40-7 in the Toyota All-Star Classic in Clarksville on Saturday.

Devon Starling of Cane Ridge was the offensive MVP for the West squad and Dyersburg’s Chris Russell took defensive honors.

For the East, Greeneville’s Cade Ballard (offense) and Fulton’s DeShawn Page (defense) were recognized.

COLLEGE SIGNING

Volunteer volleyball standout Sydney Allen made it official recently to continue her career at Cleveland State Community College.

BOYS BASKETBALL GAMES OF THE WEEK

Tuesday — Morristown East at Science Hill, Elizabethton at Dobyns-Bennett

Friday — Daniel Boone at Science Hill, Unaka at Hampton, North Greene at University High

The Hilltoppers get a quick shot at a rematch against the Hurricanes, who whipped Science Hill on Nov. 27 in Morristown — a game in which the Hilltoppers got off to a very poor start. ...

Elizabethton (7-1) has started the season with a bang, but the Cyclones’ trip to test their mettle against the area’s No. 1 team was postponed because of the wintry weather. ...

It’s opening night for the Watauga Valley Conference on Friday, and the Buccaneers and Huskies, a pair of teams playing well in the early season, meet in the highlight game.

Boys basketball rankings

Tennessee High’s loss to Science Hill combined with its win over Elizabethton opened the door for the Hilltoppers, winners of three straight, to move back into the No. 2 spot in this week’s top 10. But it’s a tight mix from two through four.

Sullivan South was the biggest mover, up four spots to No. 6.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett (7-1) — 1

2. Science Hill (7-5) — 5

3. Tennessee High (8-3) — 2

4. Elizabethton (7-1) — 4

5. Sullivan East (7-3) — 3

6. Sullivan South (7-3) — 10

7. Hampton (7-2) — 8

8. David Crockett (4-5) — 6

9. Daniel Boone (5-4) — 7

t10. University High (5-2) — 9

t10. Johnson County (5-4) — 10

GIRLS BASKETBALL GAMES OF THE WEEK

Friday — Daniel Boone at Science Hill, North Greene at University High

The Lady Hilltoppers already have a league loss, coming up short at Dobyns-Bennett. That makes the home game against the Lady Trailblazers a very important one, even for December. …

UH’s girls have picked up five wins already, but this will be one of the biggest tests. The Lady Huskies have eight wins and one of their two losses was against undefeated South Greene.

Girls basketball rankings

Johnson County’s road win over Unicoi County allowed the surprising Lady Longhorns to move up two spots to No. 5 in this week’s girls rankings.

Team (W-L) — Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett (9-1) — 1

2. Daniel Boone (8-2) — 2

3. Science Hill (8-2) — 4

4. Sullivan Central (7-3) — 3

5. Johnson County (5-4) — 7

6. Unicoi County (6-3) — 5

7. Cherokee (5-3) — 8

8. Sullivan East (4-6) — 6

9. Sullivan South (4-5) — 9

t10. Elizabethton (2-5) — NR

t10. David Crockett (4-6) — NR

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