Redskins ready to bounce back

Loudon High School’s Lucas Bivens puts up a shot Dec. 20 in the Redskins’ 55-52 loss to the Karns High School Beavers.

Following a series of close losses to end the 2019 portion of the schedule, the Loudon High School Redskins basketball team is looking to start fresh.

The Redskins dropped their last three games to Polk County, McMinn Central and Karns by a total of seven points.

“Obviously, we lost two tough district games with Polk and McMinn Central, and then you add Karns in there, a tough Knoxville school ... we missed 30-plus free throws and 30-plus layups in those games,” Josh Graves, LHS head boys basketball coach, said. “Obviously, that’s discouraging in the sense of if we had just finished half of those, we win all three of those games by 10 points or so. At the same time, I think the one positive you can look at is it’s fixable stuff, it’s repetition on your free throws, it’s repetition of finishing layups with contact. We’ve had the big break, so we’re going to have to get some conditioning in.”

Senior guard Lucas Bivens believes the break comes at the perfect time in the season. Bivens missed action at the beginning of the season due to medical issues.

“It’s been nice to recuperate after two losses going into the break,” Bivens said. “I know a lot of us were kind of banged up, and it’s been good to have some time to heal up and not have to have a three-game week and recuperate after that.”

Despite starting 0-2 in district play, the Redskins look forward to getting back in the gym this week.

“It gives us experience and some of the younger guys that got to go in those close games later, it’ll help them out since two of those were district games,” Bivens said. “That will help us the next time we play them.”

Similar to Greenback School, the Redskins are still adjusting to the late addition of football players. However, Graves has been pleased with valuable minutes from Drew Jackson, Tyler Whitfield, Noah Burnette and Gunther Millsaps.

“I think scheme-wise and mindset, they’ve come along fine,” Graves said. “It’s just the fact they haven’t been in basketball since June, and they got out the week after Thanksgiving this year. I think that’s contributed to some of our not being able to finish those close games, not that it’s strictly on the football guys by no means, but just shots that would normally fall haven’t fell, some layups that we normally would hit haven’t went in. I think also a little bit of it, too, is these guys haven’t played together since June, and it’ll come. I’m not too concerned with that.”

The break allowed the coaching staff to add wrinkles to the playbook.

“I’m going to make a few changes coaching-wise that will suit our personnel a little bit better,” Graves said. “We’re going to look at some more zone the second half of the year to try to suit guys like Burnette and Whitfield a little bit better and use some of our length and speed with some zone stuff instead of playing so much man-to-man. I think that will fit the football guys, too, and I think they’ve done everything that I could ask of them.”

The Redskins will be back in action at 4 p.m. Thursday against the Siegel High School Stars in the first round of the Cleveland High School Holiday Tournament.

The second and third rounds follow Friday and Saturday.

“They’re a very, very good triple-A team out of Murfreesboro and could possibly be the best team out of Murfreesboro when it comes to that district,” Graves said. “Siegel, they’re good. They’ve got good guard play, they’ve got a big, long ... about 6-foot-8 kid and they’ve got two kids that can knock the bottom out of it if they’re set. We’re going to have our hands full, but there’s some stuff in film that I’ve seen that I think we can exploit that and help us compete, and that’s the point, that’s why we’re going.”