Humor me for a second and allow a comparison between Peyton Manning and Tianna Tarter.
There are those who say Manning, the Denver Broncos’ quarterback, must win Sunday’s Super Bowl to be in consideration for the greatest of all time at his position. To hold that belief, one must say Super Bowl titles weigh above and beyond anything accomplished before the final game of a season.
So does that mean Brad Johnson or Trent Dilfer, who each won a Super Bowl, were anywhere close to as good as Dan Marino, who did not? See the absurdity?
Now as for Tarter, a quarterback on the basketball court for Science Hill, the senior point guard is once again leading her team toward a state basketball championship — just as she did in her first three years of high school. Each time her team has fallen just a little short: a tough late-game loss to Memphis Central in the semifinals when she was a freshman, and a pair of championship game losses to Murfreesboro Riverdale the following seasons.
With nearly every offensive set starting in Tarter’s hands, the Lady Hilltoppers have won 122 of their last 128 games. Three of the six losses were to Riverdale, two were out of state, and the other was to Memphis Central.
Tarter’s total of 131 career victories is the best-ever for any girls player in Northeast Tennessee history. With eight more wins, something that could happen with a regional championship, Tarter would tie Brad Fields and Gabe Goulds for the all-time record of 139.
Tarter won’t finish her career with as many points as some of the other great girls basketball players in Northeast Tennessee history, but when looking at her overall game she will be one of the best — if not No. 1. There’s more to the game than scoring, and Tarter does it all.
It should also be said just as Manning needed guys like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney, Tarter has needed teammates like Shy Copney, Enjelica Reid and Gabby Lyon.
Science Hill is once again good enough to threaten the big girls in the ’Boro. But Tarter doesn’t need a state title to put her at or near the top.
Just like Manning, she’s already there.
Losing sophomore guard Brandy Watkins for the first 20 games of the season, and Tori James for eight games, Sullivan East could have gone in the wrong direction.
Instead the Lady Patriots are 21-5 overall and sitting in second place in the Three Rivers Conference with a 7-2 league mark.
“Barring injuries I fully expected us to be where we are,” said East head coach Allan Aubrey. “We thought we had that sort of talent.
“But the way we survived injuries, our record is better than we thought. Beyond those two players, we have depth. We go nine deep.”
Included in the mix is leading scorer Jamison Shaffer (14 points per game) and Kara Stafford (12 points, 7 rebounds per game).
“Those two have stepped up statistically, and Kayla Addison has provided great senior leadership,” said Aubrey. “Caitlyn Stewart, Kait Nidiffer, and Megan Addison have stepped in. More than anything we’ve succeeded as a team.”
Watkins — who broke her hand three minutes into the first game of the season — has played in six games since returning. Against Unicoi County, she had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“Her shooting is not completely back, but it’s getting closer,” said Aubrey. “The way she’s playing, she’s back.”
The Lady Patriots have an important game coming up Thursday against Elizabethton, but Aubrey said Friday’s game at Happy Valley is even more important.
“Win or lose against Elizabethton, if we beat Happy Valley we can solidify second place,” said Aubrey. “Even if we beat Elizabethton, the chances of catching them are slim because of tiebreakers. But it’s going to be a good measuring stick.”
Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz.
Points of Interest: The Lady Hilltoppers are one of three undefeated girls teams in the state.
Science Hill is 25-0 while Class A Union City is 24-0 and Division II Eads Briarcrest Christian is 21-0. …
On the boys’ side Brownsville Haywood is 22-0, Murfreesboro Siegel is 21-0, Nashville Goodpasture Christian is 17-0 and Cheatham County is 16-0.
Providence Academy has been playing well lately, and a 61-57 win over Cloudland on Friday was more evidence of it.
A loss to Tennessee High was the team’s biggest setback, but the Knights have beaten Sullivan North and University High with competitive losses against Sullivan East (68-64) and North Greene (46-44).
“For the last two weeks we have been on a roll, heading in the right direction, especially with the win over Cloudland,” said head coach Martin Sells.
On a down note, the Knights lost senior Aaron Lewis to a leg injury. He was averaging eight points and eight rebounds per game, and will be sidelined at least three weeks.
The Knights (11-8 overall) have eight regular season games remaining before the National Association of Christian Athletes state tournament, which begins Feb. 26 in Dayton.
Wrestling update: Science Hill will be participating in the state dual tournament this weekend in Franklin.
The Hilltoppers will compete in the round of 16 on Friday. The quarterfinals will also be Friday.
Saturday’s semifinals begin at 2 p.m. (EST) while the championship match is scheduled for 8 o’clock.
All matches will be at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Arena.
Bowling update: Columbia Central won the boys’ state title while Hardin County captured the crown on the girls’ side.
Columbia freshman Cole Flatt won the boys’ individual title while Hardin County freshman Ashley Channell earned the girls’ championship.
Boys basketball games of the week: (Today) Tennessee High at Dobyns-Bennett, Elizabethton at Unicoi County, Johnson County at Sullivan South, (Friday) Science Hill at David Crockett, Elizabethton at Johnson County, Unicoi County at Sullivan South.
It’s hard to imagine Science Hill not being included in a Big Seven Conference game that could determine the league title, but the Vikings-Indians’ tilt will make a loud statement. …
It’s big-boy week for Unicoi County as it has a chance to position itself for the Three Rivers Conference championship. It’s close to the same type of week for Elizabethton, but the Cyclones already have two league losses. …
David Crockett is still looking for a signature Big Seven win in head coach John Good’s first season. Beating the Hilltoppers would take care of it.
Boys player of the week — Stanley Valentine of Hampton.
The 6-1 junior post had a pair of powerful performances for the Bulldogs.
In Thursday’s 94-71 pounding of Unaka, Valentine totaled 15 points and seven rebounds. He followed that with a 28-point, 10-rebound outing in Friday’s 67-51 win over University High.
Boys pick of the week — Science Hill 72, David Crockett 68.
The Hilltoppers get a week to prepare, and will be fully locked in and loaded to meet their former teammates and coach in a hostile environment.
Picks record: 4-2.
A much-improved Dobyns-Bennett team battles its way up to No. 4 in this week’s Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Hampton 20-2 1
2. Unicoi County 20-4 2
3. Tennessee High 17-5 3
4. Dobyns-Bennett 12-8 6
5. Science Hill 18-8 4
6. Elizabethton 16-6 7
7. David Crockett 16-10 5
8. Sullivan South 12-9 8
9. Daniel Boone 13-11 9
10. Johnson County 10-9 10
This Week in Prep History: January 25, 1994.
Rob Williams and Odarius Williams combined for 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, eight steals, and went 16 of 20 from the field in just three quarters of action as Science Hill whipped Sullivan South 96-53.
Girls basketball games of the week: (Today) Elizabethton at Unicoi County, (Thursday) Sullivan East at Elizabethton, (Friday) Daniel Boone at Tennessee High, Cloudland at North Greene.
Daniel Boone still has a chance to avoid the always tough first-round district tournament 4-5 contest. Beating the Lady Vikings would be a key step toward a No. 3 finish. …
Already holding a loss to North Greene, the Lady Highlanders face a must-win game in their chase for the Watauga Valley Conference title.
Girls player of the week — Brooke Brown of Johnson County.
Things haven’t gone the Lady Longhorns’ way lately. However, their senior guard is still plugging away and trying to make things happen.
She scored over half of her team’s points in a 78-26 loss to Elizabethton on Thursday with a total of 15.
She kept her head up and led her team to victory the next night, scoring 21 points in a 66-49 win over Sullivan North.
Girls pick of the week — Elizabethton 62, Sullivan East 49.
Over the course of four quarters, it’s tough to consistently score against the Lady Cyclones — and equally tough to defend them.
Picks record: 6-0.
Volunteer slides up to No. 5 in the only change for this week’s girls rankings.
Team W-L Prv
1. Science Hill 25-0 1
2. Elizabethton 17-3 2
3. Cloudland 21-3 3
4. Sullivan East 21-5 4
5. Volunteer 22-6 6
6. South Greene 17-8 5
7. Daniel Boone 15-9 7
8. North Greene 17-9 8
9. Dobyns-Bennett 14-8 9
10. Hampton 14-9 10