WC bracing for possible four-way tie for first place

By Tim Chambers

   Basketball is in full swing this week, with first place on the line in the Watauga Conference race. Volunteer and Central sit atop the league lead with 8-3 records, with Elizabethton and Happy Valley close behind at 7-4.
   There will be a four-way tie after Friday night's game if Elizabethton knocks off Volunteer at Church Hill and Happy Valley derails Sullivan Central atop Warrior Hill.
   Who would have ever thought that the Cyclones would be near the top of the standings, but Coach Tony Hardin has done a masterful job of replacing four starters while getting 'Betsy near the top of the league standings.
   The Orange & Black must find a way to stop the dynamic duo of Chucky Lindholm and Jacob Frazier.
   Meanwhile, the Warriors will attempt to complicate things by trying to knock off pre-season favorite Sullivan Central. Joe Brown and Matt Dunford could cause problems for the Warriors, but Coach Charlie Bayless has many more weapons this season that in years' past.
   Many Watauga Conference fans will await Friday nights outcomes, hoping that the Carter County teams prevail in these key contests.
   The Cloudland Highlanders have a tough task at hand when they journey to Baileyton to take on the North Greene Huskies. The 'Landers know that anything can happen in Greene County, and you can bet that the Blue & Gold will not let their guard down.
   The boys need a win and will likely finish second in the conference if they defeat North Greene, assuming Unaka will defeat a winless Clinch. The girls' scenario is different, with the Highlanders in the thick of the conference race.
   Lady Highlander fans are reminded of Unaka's loss earlier this season in Baileyton. Tuesday night North Greene lost to David Crockett, a team which recently knocked off Big Seven powerhouse Tennessee High, by two.
   The Highlanders must not look ahead to Tuesday night's matchup with Unaka and concentrate on the task at hand.
   The Hampton Lady Bulldogs will get to try their luck at knocking off top dog Unicoi County. If the 'Dogs come to play, they could spring an upset over the Blue Devils.
   Unaka boys will journey to Bluff City Friday night to take on the Sullivan East Patriots. The Rangers could be without Derek Cline (a dislocated finger) and Rusty Chambers, who is trying to overcome a high fever with flu-like symptoms.
   BenchTalk Brainstorm
   Happy Valley 68, Sullivan Central 59 (Boys)
   The Warriors are capable of knocking off the Cougars inside Bayless Gymnasium. This is a must win for Happy Valley, so look for Coach Charlie Bayless to pull out all stops.
   Cloudland 42, North Greene 39 (Girls)
   The Lady 'Landers are in for a dogfight Friday night at the Huskies Den. Any letdown could result in a loss for the Highlanders. Cloudland is scrappy and will find a way to bring victory back to Roan Mountain.
   BenchTalk's Top Performances for the past week.
   Judd Shoun, Johnson County: Shoun rang up a total of 63 points this past week for the Longhorns. Although the Longhorns are down this season, Shoun continues to be one of the top players in the area.
   Jessica Osborne, Unaka: Osborne tallied 53 points in three games including 12 three-pointers leading Unaka to wins over Tennessee Temple and Knox Catholic.
   BenchTalk's Biggest Surprise of the Week
   Unaka boys win over Chattanooga McCallie: It was a Hickory High School replay (from Hoosiers movie) as tiny Unaka (300+ students) defeated private school powerhouse McCallie (1500+ students) 48-46 inside its 20 million dollar sports complex.
   BenchTalks Super "Star" Seven (Class A and AA only)
   1. Volunteer 9-3 17-6
   2. Sul. Central 8-3 15-7
   3. Happy Valley 7-4 11-7
   4. Unaka 6-0 13-9
   5. Cloudland 3-2 14-6
   Elizabethton 7-4 12-9
   7. Sullivan North 4-6 10-11
   1. Unicoi County 8-1 17-3
   2 Unaka 5-1 16-6
   Elizabethton 9-2 14-6
   4. Sul. Central 8-3 11-8
   5. Hampton 6-5 9-8
   6. Happy Valley 6-5 10-10
   7. Cloudland 3-2 12-11