After erasing a 20-point deficit in the second half, the Lenoir City High School Panthers basketball team fought their way back against the William Blount High School Governors but fell short 73-63 on the road.

The Panthers pushed the Governors throughout the first half and trailed by seven at halftime.

“It was a tough game, I mean, it was physical,” Brent Burns, LCHS head boys basketball coach, said. “The first half, there was two fouls in the whole first half called, so it was physical. That’s where the guys have to understand, you’ve got to play to the way the game’s being called, and you’ve got to out there and compete.”

William Blount came out firing early in the third quarter and led by as much as 20 before the Panthers rallied to cut the lead to four.

Despite the loss, Burns did not hang his head in disappointment.

“The second half, we really played hard and we competed, and that was honestly probably the proudest I’ve been of them,” he said. “The second half, they hit some shots, and William Blount’s a good team and they can shoot. We got down, I think it was 20 probably with four minutes left in the third, and it would’ve been very easy for our guys to rollover and quit, and they didn’t. They battled and cut it to four with 3 1/2 minutes left at one point. The way that they played the last 12 minutes, that’s the way this team has to play in order to win games, and that’s what I told them. That’s the effort we need.”

The Panthers got back senior guard Ben Halcomb following a broken nose suffered Dec. 6 against Heritage High School. The team also welcomed back senior center Nic Bevins, who added much-needed size in the paint.

Bevins missed the spring, summer and fall with a severe elbow injury.

“It feels great, I’m on a throwing program and workouts and everything,” he said. “It just feels really good. I’m out of shape, first thing. I just need to work to getting to know everybody and how they play again, just fitting the mold that I need to be in.”

Bevins started last season for the Panthers.

“It’s good, I’ve already gotten to meet most of the players,” he said. “I get along with them pretty well. I think the group we had last year that’s coming back really works well together, so I think that’s pretty good.”

The Panthers took on the reigning Class 3A state champion Bearden High School Bulldogs on Tuesday after presstime. They finish the week off with back-to-back, non-district games Thursday and Friday against Knoxville Halls and Oakdale high schools.

“We’re just worried about the day-to-day process, I mean you can’t look at a schedule and start worrying — my only concern is tomorrow,” Burns said. “We’ve got Halls, who’s a good team, and Oakdale, who’s very well-coached and who’s kids have been together for a long time, play hard. Our focus is just we’ve can’t control what’s set on the schedule, we just have to play the best that we can. I want to see improvement from our team, and we’re doing that. Wins and losses and the record, you can’t get caught up in that as a head coach. Really what matters is the process.”

Lady Panthers fightingThe LCHS Lady Panthers are on a three-game losing streak in District 4-3A play following a tough 62-23 loss against the WBHS Lady Govs.

“We didn’t score in the second quarter, and I think we had two points in the third quarter, so they just shut us down,” Tim Smith, LCHS head girls basketball coach, said. “They pressed us pretty good, and we turned the ball over. We just couldn’t get going, and that’s because they put pressure on us. I think if we’re not shooting well, it just kind of affects us. I don’t know, I think we just made some poor mistakes, and that kind of led to that buildup of the score.”

One of Smith’s concerns has been consistency, especially on offense.

“It’s not really a consistent player every night, it’s usually someone different,” he said. “At times, they’ve all had some good games, and at times, they’ve all had some bad ones. I don’t know if I can say there’s one that’s shined ... I guess there’s been areas that some have done better, some have rebounded better. I think Madison Graves is one of my better rebounders. ... I think Emma Jenkins is probably rebounding better, Jordan Gresham is shooting the ball better. Ciara (Uphoff) has some good games and some not-so-good games. It’s just kind of hard to put a thumb on who’s shined because it’s not been consistent.”

The Lady Panthers will look to get back into the win column later this week against Knoxville Halls and Oakdale before hosting a Christmas tournament next weekend.

“It’s a tough week because you’ve got finals,” Smith said. “The thing is, you’ve got to make sure your practices are measured and not too intense. We’re going to work on a lot of shooting, work on a lot of who we’re preparing for. Probably early Friday, we’ll come in and work on Oakdale. Again, the biggest thing is not maybe who we’re playing, but it’s us.”