Lady Cherokees basketball tips off new season

Greenback School's Lily Morton drives to the basket Thursday in the Lady Cherokees' 41-28 win over the Lenoir City High School Lady Panthers.

The 2020-21 high school basketball season is officially underway and the Greenback School Lady Cherokees are looking to haul in some hardware for the trophy case come February.

The Lady Cherokees were originally slated to open the season Nov. 17 against Sweetwater before the game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns by Sweetwater.

Lenoir City High School reached out and scheduled a game for Thursday. The Lady Cherokees pulled out the 41-28 upset over the Lady Panthers despite missing head coach Angie Lucier.

"I was home because of COVID but from listening to it and seeing some film, I was really proud with the way everybody stepped up," Lucier said. "I felt like in the third quarter when they went into a zone and we were patient and moved the ball and got some really good looks outside, I mean just listening to it on the radio and hearing everybody's name called off ... they made passes and I was very pleased with that."

The Lady Cherokees followed up Saturday with two games, splitting the day with a 43-36 win over Harriman and a 56-50 loss to Anderson County.

Lucier returned to the sidelines Monday for the Lady Cherokees' dominant 51-18 win over the Jellico High School Lady Blue Devils in the first District 2-1A matchup of the season.

Junior guard Kierra Bishop led the team with 13 points.

"The game plan was to put a lot of pressure on defensively, force turnovers and get some easy buckets early on in the game, which I felt like we did a pretty good job of turning them over and converting in the first quarter," Lucier said. "It's really good early on the season to create some depth, especially for this season where you literally are not sure who you're going to have from this week to the next because of quarantine. For people to come in and people to come off the bench and score, it gives them a lot of confidence and helps us not be so nervous if we get in a situation where we're going to miss a starter or two."

The 3-1 start is the best since the 2017.

Even though the team missed a lot of practice time during the offseason, the Lady Cherokees' experience-laden roster has been able to pick up the missing pieces. 

Four of five starters from last year's team return, including All-District players Bishop, senior Lily Morton, junior Mikah Morris and sophomore Macee Tuck. For a third consecutive season, Lucier will rely on quick guard play to make up for a lack of size down low.

"I think we've had a really good start because we've been playing really good together as a team," Morton said. "I know we've been playing for a while and really starting to get the hang of things, and we just came out there pretty strong. I think the way we communicate and come together has been really good, and I think it really is going to be a good season for us."

The Lady Cherokees are poised to make a run for the District 2-1A championship once again, but Cosby High School remains the team to beat after running through the competition and nearly advancing to the Class 1A state tournament last season.

"Our goal every year is to finish with as many wins in the district as we can, and Cosby's been the nemesis that stops us every year," Lucier said. "With the realignment, this is kind of our last chance to get them. They're back at full strength. Our goal is, obviously, to knock them out of the position they've held the past three years. If we're all playing and doing our part, then we've got a chance to do that, I believe."

The Lady Cherokees traveled to Rockwood on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime. Greenback's next game will be at 6 p.m. Monday at Maryville Christian School.