Basketball teams get season underway

Lenoir City High School freshman Taylour Hafner gets away from a player Monday against Oliver Springs High School.

One week into the basketball season, local high school teams have had mixed results.

With a focus on hitting form once district competition kicks in next month, players and coaches are analyzing performances with the future in mind.

Loudon High School’s basketball teams each faced a unique challenge in these opening weeks. For the boys, the success of the football team is depriving them of several key players. For the girls, inexperience requires a quick learning curve.

The boys opened Nov. 11 with a convincing 72-37 victory against Wartburg High School, but followed up with a 76-35 loss at Anderson County High School. For head coach Josh Graves, both experiences will help moving forward.

“All that stuff is good for our kids, especially right now with our football guys, some guys getting opportunities that they wouldn’t normally get,” Graves said. “To be able to go into a hostile environment like that and handle adversity on the road and to be able to keep your composure and finish, I thought was great for our guys. And then obviously Tuesday night, getting to play at home and playing well, you kind of get to see both ends of the spectrum, and we want to be on the end of the spectrum we were on Tuesday night.”

Graves said he was especially satisfied with the performances of freshmen Nolan Bethel, Jayden Capshaw and Austin Farmer, who combined to score over half the points in the first game.

“We’re really depending on Nolan and Jayden, both very talented young men and they’re going to be great for us in the next four years,” Graves said. “So it’s good to see the guys be able to get in there and compete as freshmen and I think both those guys will definitely help us this year. And Austin took advantage of an opportunity that he may not get if football’s with us, so really refreshing to see those young guys be able to come in and play well.”

The Lady Redskins are also playing several freshmen, but for different reasons.

With a roster composed of 15 freshmen out of 18 players, girls basketball head coach Wiley Brakebill has little choice in the matter. While the team lost the two opening games, 60-53 to Wartburg and 58-46 to Anderson County, Brakebill said there were many positives.

“Our first two games, there’s been a lot of really bright spots, I feel like,” he said. “Of course, we’re playing a lot of really young players, so just learning how to anticipate on the defensive side and on the offensive side, it’s something that will just come with time and come with more and more reps that they can get. They’re really bought in to playing hard and they have given so much effort, and we’ve been a couple of possessions, a few minutes away from really kind of letting things click. So if we can just clean up a few things here and there, mostly rebounding, and if we can limit our turnovers, that’s going to really help this team go much farther.”

Both teams now have a few days to regroup before they host Sequoyah High School on Tuesday. The girls will play at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30 p.m.

Perfect start for Lenoir CityBefore the season started, new Lenoir City girls basketball head coach Brad Cochran said his team was looking to surprise people. They have done just that in opening games, winning all three to start the year.

The Lady Panthers opened Nov. 16 against Oakdale High School with a 45-31 win. They went on to beat Sweetwater High School 57-49 on Nov. 19 and Oliver Springs High School 67-32 on Nov. 22.

“Anytime you can start out undefeated it’s always good but we got a lot of things to work on, which is good,” Cochran said. “You get to recognize anything that you missed over the time, so we just got really to dig in and get better in practice because it starts with practice, but three and zero is always a good thing.”

Cochran said the team isn’t getting ahead of themselves, however, as there is a long way to go. The team will keep working to implement the high-tempo game he wants, with the aim of hitting its stride when district starts up.

“We’re taking the right steps, it’s going to come in a little bit,” Cochran said. “I told the girls at the beginning, I said we’re not going to be clicking in November and I don’t want us to be. We need to be clicking December, January and into February. So the tempo’s getting there, they’re understanding it a little bit better and it only gets easier from here on out for us as far as what we’re doing schematically. We’re just going to do what we do and get really good at it.”

The LCHS boys team also started with three wins out of three. The Panthers defeated Oakdale 74-32, Sweetwater 54-48 and Oliver Springs 72-67.

“It’s always good to be three and zero, but more importantly we’ve gotten better within each of the games,” Josh Brannon, LCHS boys head basketball coach, said. “Like we talked in preseason, it’s not necessarily about the outcome, the end result of the game necessarily, it’s how we’re playing, getting better. And I can say that there are obvious areas that we need to continue to focus on and improve, but we are taking small steps in the right direction each time we take to floor, whether that be practice or in a game, so I’m not satisfied, but very pleased with our guys.”

With an inexperienced roster, Brannon said the wins are the best way to get players settled.

“Until you get there and perform at a high level, you’re truly not going to figure it out for yourself,” Brannon said. “So it’s important for our guys to get that experience, especially two tight games in a row, finding a way to win, that was huge.”

Lenoir City travels next to William Blount High School for the Foothills Camp & Retreat Classic. The girls and boys teams will face William Blount at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively, Friday, followed by Seymour High School at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tough start for GreenbackBoth Greenback teams have had a rough start, but are finding positives despite the adversity.

The girls team lost the opening three games, 32-43 to Sweetwater High School on Nov. 16, 30-42 to Anderson County High School and 46-54 to Fulton High School on Nov. 20, but won its fourth game on Nov. 22, 48-15 against First Baptist Academy.

Angie Lucier, Greenback girls head basketball coach, said the performances are the result of a tough set of circumstances that hampered the start to the season.

“We started out dealing with some injuries and some illness, so we didn’t obviously start out doing as well as we had hoped, and we’re battling back,” Lucier said.

Keeping players motivated has been a challenge, but Lucier said there are positives to be taken from the last two games.

“The Fulton game, which was our second game on Saturday, we played really well in that,” she said. “They’re a very strong athletic team and we were actually ahead of them in the fourth quarter, so I was very pleased with the defensive effort, that was kind of always what runs our team, so to speak. We frustrate people defensively and hopefully turn them over and are able to get our offense going as a result of that, and I was very happy with the defensive effort in the Fulton game. And last night, I believe First Baptist Academy had put up some pretty high scoring games in the past couple of games, so holding them to a low score was a reflection of just how hard my girls were playing defense.”

With another game Tuesday after News-Herald presstime, the Lady Cherokees have played four games in four days. Lucier said she looks forward to giving them a few days off over Thanksgiving before getting back into the thick of things with a rivalry game against Coalfield High School.

Greenback’s boys basketball team has also started poorly, losing all three games. However, head coach Shane Belcher said he hopes the quality of opposition the team faced will help in the long run.

“It’s been tough, we’ve played some really good teams that are well coached,” Belcher said. “We’ve kind of played up a little, some non-district games, and we got another tough one tonight, but I think it’ll pay off come district time, I hope, playing these tougher, bigger teams.”

Belcher identified several areas his team still needs to work on, but also said he was pleased with the defense and noticed a lot of positives he could build on.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement from last year, which is good,” he said. “We’re trending in the right direction, we just got to transition from practice to the game, we got to bring our work ethic from practice into the game.”

Both teams faced Maryville Christian High School on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime. They travel next Nov. 30 to Coalfield High School, with the girls playing at 6:30 p.m. and the boys at 8 p.m.