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Hilltoppers kept tradition going in the 2000s

Douglas Fritz • May 4, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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.

Science Hill basketball faced a difficult challenge in the new century.

First, the Hilltoppers had to live up to the enormous expectations developed under Coach George Pitts, and they had to do it with a new coach, Mike Poe.

The first thing Poe did was extend Science Hill’s streak of reaching the state tournament to eight years, as they made it in 2000. Unfortunately the Hilltoppers were tasked with facing the eventual Class AAA champion in Memphis White Station, losing 64-46.

It didn’t take long for Poe to return the Hilltoppers to center stage, however. He guided them to the state finals in 2002, losing again to White Station, 59-45.

It would take seven years for Science Hill to return to Murfreesboro, with new coach Ken Cutlip getting the Hilltoppers back down the road in 2009. The Hilltoppers lost in the quarterfinals to Walker Valley.

TERRIFIC TEN

OMAR WATTAD

It is quite an accomplishment to be the all-time leading scorer at a school with Science Hill’s tradition. The swingman, who played in the middle part of the decade, exited with 2,285 points to eclipse Jovann Johnson. Also, Wattad helped the Hilltoppers win 119 games. “His basketball IQ was off the chart,” said one coach. He played 98 games in his college career at Georgetown and Chattanooga, averaging double figures each of his two seasons with the Moccasins.

DEMETRIC STEVENS

Fitting the mold of the type of talent the Hilltoppers possessed in their heydays, Stevens was a superb guard with blink-of-an-eye quickness and a deft shooting touch at the beginning of the decade. He stands in the No. 4 spot on Science Hill’s all-time scoring list with 1,906 points.

JOSH ODEM

Standing eighth on the all-time scoring list with 1,579 points, Odem averaged 22 points, six rebounds and four assists as a senior in 2009. The guard had 15 points, six rebounds and three steals in the state tournament game. He went on to average seven points in 41 collegiate games with Chattanooga. One coach said Odem “had the unique ability to dominate the game without dominating the ball.”

ROB LOVE

Science Hill turned often to its standout guard when it needed points. One of his best games came in the 2000 sectional against Oak Ridge at Thompson-Boling Arena. Love totaled 28 points in the 80-77 overtime victory. He is sixth on the all-time scoring list with 1,804 points.

CHRIS SMITH

Athleticism was one of the keys to Smith’s success. The guard could score, defend and rebound, and was an integral part of the 2009 team. Smith finished his career with 1,145 points. A tennis state champion on The Hill, he went on to a four-year career in that sport at Chattanooga.

JERMAINE LOVE

Consistency was a trademark for the forward, who graduated in 2000. “He would get you points every game and played hard,” said one coach. Love finished his career with 1,182 points.

JEROME ODEM

As a sophomore in 2002, the guard made back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter to pull Science Hill within five points of White Station in the championship game. He topped the 1,000-point mark for his career and went on to play 61 games at Troy University, averaging 6.4 points and 2.7 assists.

NICK BRADLEY

One of the things that stood about Bradley was his toughness in the early part of the decade. He was also a front-line scorer, finishing his career with 1,116 points.

B.J. HAIRSTON

Hairston could score, but his calling card was distributing the ball and playing defense. In the state tournament game in 2000, the diminutive guard totaled five assists. One observer said, “he would get in your face defensively.”

MICHAEL FORNEY

An athletic guard, Forney could score as evidenced by his 1,032 career points. He was also a tough kid who could shut down the opponent’s best offensive weapon.

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