Hilltoppers lean on familiar formula to continue winning ways
By Dave Ongie
When the going got tough last season, Science Hill’s tough senior class got going.
The Hilltoppers rode the leadership of its six-man senior class to another regional championship, and now Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip will be looking to a new group of leaders to maintain Science Hill’s proud tradition. While some of the names and faces have changed, Cutlip said the program’s formula for success will remain unchanged this season.
“I’ve been fortunate to have really good kids in our program, and unselfish kids,” Cutlip said. “That’s been the staple of what we do – the kids are unselfish. They put the team before themselves, and I think we have another group of kids that is willing to do that. In order for us to be successful, we’re going to have to play a lot of kids and use our depth. The same formula we’ve used for years is what we’ll try to do.”
Science Hill will rely heavily on 6-foot-4 senior Tate Wheeler. On a team that lacks size, Cutlip said Wheeler will have to carry the load in order for the ‘Toppers to be successful. David Bryant, a 6-0 guard, is the team’s best shooter while Jerriah Love, a 5-8 junior, is described by Cutlip as “the heart and soul” of the team.
Junior Danso, a 6-1 junior, burst onto the scene last season and will be expected to play a large role this season along with Drew Morrison, a physical 5-11 junior. Will Stevens, a 5-9 junior, and Jake Matherne, a 6-5 sophomore will have a chance to play a big role. The same goes for 5-10 sophmore Jordan McCloyd and 5-11 junior Shane Austin.
What the Hilltoppers lack in height, they make up for in speed and depth. Cutlip is hoping those attributes will be enough to propel Science Hill back to the head of the pack in the Big Seven Conference.
Talented Lady Hilltoppers look to take the next step
By Dave Ongie
The talent level of the Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers is undeniable.
With super sophomore Alasia Smith leading the charge, Science Hill has size, quickness and depth. However, injuries and leadership will ultimately determine how far the Lady Hilltoppers can go into the postseason.
“We lost some really good seniors – Blair Henry, Kaitlyn Phillips, Maddie Ratner, Courtney McCurry,” said Science Hill coach Scottie Whaley. “We lost a lot of leadership. We’re fortunate to have some talented kids coming back, but we’re extremely young. Even though some of those kids played last year, we’re young.
“It is a changing of the guard. The biggest thing we’ve talked to them in practice is how quickly we grow and mature as a team.”
Science Hill will build around Smith, who was named to the all-Big Seven Conference team as a freshman. Freshman Jeila Greenlee will provide an instant dose of offense while Erin Egerbrecht, Aliyanna Hill and Samantha Fugate will need to knock down perimeter jump shots.
But several other key pieces of the puzzle are dealing with injuries. Senior Nyrashia Love is still working her way back from an ACL tear while 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Amarianna Johnson broke her finger during the preseason. When you add in Jia Scott’s concussion and Olivia Miller’s ankle sprain, the training room at Science Hill has been a busy place.
“We’re about ready to break out the bubble wrap and wrap them up,” Whaley quipped. “The good thing is that all of them are expected to be back.”
In the meantime, players like Sierra Livingston, Maddy Richmond, Lily Cullop, Jackson Whiteside, Samantha Austin and Aysha Redford will get more minutes, which Whaley believes will be good for his team in the long run.