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Hilltoppers' basketball was building steam during the 1980s

Douglas Fritz • May 2, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Editor’s note: This is the second of a six-part series, honoring the top players in the last 50 years of Science Hill High School basketball. The Johnson City Press All-Decade and All-Half Century teams were chosen by a panel. Each team consists of 10 players.

Even before George Pitts arrived in 1984, Science Hill was a state-level threat.

The Hilltoppers made it to the Class AAA state tournament in 1982 under Dennis Greenwell, pushing eventual champion Memphis Central to the limit in the quarterfinals. Science Hill led by four points at halftime and was tied entering the fourth quarter before losing, 50-44.

Pitts came on board and it wouldn’t be long before reaching the state tournament became an expectation. Science Hill made back-to-back state appearances in 1987 and 1988, each time suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss.

An influx of talent and depth toward the end of the decade started the Hilltoppers on their meteoric rise. And as the calendar changed from 1989 to 1990, Science Hill earned its first-ever state title.

TERRIFIC TEN

ORVILLE WHITTINGTON

A true clutch performer, Whittington was a dominant force in the paint, scoring and rebounding. He played only three months of his career outside of the 1980s, but those were memorable moments.

He made the game-winning shot against Sevier County in the substate in 1990, and was the most valuable player in the state tournament.

ALBERT SAMS

The heart and soul of the 1982 team, he was described as a smooth operator who did everything well. In the state tournament loss to Memphis Central, the forward totaled 18 points. He scored 1,525 points in his career, which was second all-time to Gary Carter at that point. He now stands in the No. 11 spot. Sams played for four seasons at ETSU.

HERBIE BULLOCK

A beast in the middle and very steady all around, Bullock teamed up with Sams to make Science Hill one of the state’s best teams. The 6-foot-7 post had 10 points and nine rebounds against Memphis Central. He scored 1,184 points in his career.

HOSEA GARDNER

When it came time to play defense, Gardner’s game went to the next level in the middle part of the decade. One coach said, “He was a guard who would shut you down.”

T.R. DUNN

Athleticism wasn’t lacking for Dunn in the middle part of the decade. He was one of the Hilltoppers’ best on the boards and one observer said, “he could jump out of the gym.”

ANDREL ANDERSON

An integral part of the Hilltoppers’ back-to-back state tournament teams, the guard scored 15 points and had six rebounds in the 1987 loss to Dyersburg. One coach said, “He was a warrior. Relentless.” Anderson scored 1,150 points in his career.

ROBBIE STUART

In the middle part of the decade, Stuart always found a way to produce. He was described as a gamer. When tipoff came, the swingman was ready to roll.

JAMES MOCK

He was gifted with the shooting touch. The guard was also described as “one of the quickest kids who ever played at Science Hill.”

ROBBIE PARDUE

Playing on the wing, Pardue contributed in many ways in the late part of the decade. In each of his two state tournament games, he led the Hilltoppers in assists and steals.

TODD STARKE

Another player blessed with the ability to rip the nets. One coach said of the wing player in the late part of the decade, “He could shoot the eyes out of it.”

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