The Greenback School Lady Cherokees (16-8, 6-2 District 2-1A) concluded the regular season on a high note and want to carry that momentum into the District 2-1A semifinals Thursday.
After a series of cancellations and reshuffling over the last two weeks, the Lady Cherokees scheduled No. 12-ranked Sunbright School for a final regular season test and pulled out a 54-38 win Friday to snap the Lady Tigers’ nine-game winning streak.
Both teams battled hard in the first half, but Greenback outscored the Lady Tigers 22-12 at halftime and never looked back.
Sunbright attempted to rally in the third quarter with 14 points, but the Lady Cherokees turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter with a 20-point swing.
“It was good to be back on the home floor because it seems like it had been a while since we played at home, and so I felt like the girls were relaxed and just played a really smart game,” Angie Lucier, Greenback head girls basketball coach, said. “We were missing Shay (McDonell) because she got a concussion at Midway and my sixth girl was missing for another reason, so we knew if we went to the bench that it was going to be people that had not had a lot of playing time in the past. The girls were able to play really good defense without fouling, which had been plaguing us the last few games.”
Junior guard Kierra Bishop led the charge with 20 points, including going 8-for-8 at the free throw stripe.
Junior point guard Madison Graves finished second in scoring with 12 points and shot 62% from the floor. The Lenoir City High School transfer and former All-County guard has made an immediate impact for the Lady Cherokees since becoming eligible in January.
Lucier said she “adds another dynamic” to an already talented backcourt that consists of Bishop, senior Lily Morton and junior Mikah Morris.
“I thought we played really well together because we got our speed up, and we started running the floor really well,” Graves said. “Lily passed the ball really well that night and we locked down on defense, so I thought that helped us a lot. When we played Midway, we couldn’t get around their defense. I enjoy playing with them a lot, and I think that we just know each other now and how we play so we can just read each other really well on the floor.”
“I told them after the game that it’s exciting to see things come together right here as we’re about to start the tournament,” Lucier added. “You expect you’re going to be in some situations where your guards are going to have to control the tempo, take care of the ball and we’ve got a lot of confidence in what we have. You’ve got Mikah, who’s playing the four/forward and handles the ball quite well, and so that’s a huge advantage for us going into the tournament.”
The Lady Cherokees will host the Washburn High School Lady Pirates at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the District 2-1A semifinals. Greenback defeated Washburn twice in the regular season by a combined score of 111-58.
“I’m expecting Washburn to come and look for some payback,” Lucier said. “We’ve held them to very few points both times, and they’re a team that they’ve got some shooters and they’ve got some girls that can drive. I know they’re going to feel like they’ve not shown us their best game, and so I want to make sure that we’re prepared and don’t come in there overconfident just because we’ve beat them twice. It’s tournament time and all of that doesn’t matter — it’s a whole new season. We’ve got to approach everything one game at a time and play our best.”
Lucier believes the team’s chemistry and postseason experience will be two major advantages.
“I feel like the chemistry on this team right now is right where it needs to be because they’re excited for each other,” she said. “We had some young kids come in there and do some great things in the Sunbright game, and it was a really good atmosphere afterwards to see everybody happy for each other. I’m excited.”
As the Lady Cherokees prepare to make another run at the District 2-1A championship, the message remains the same.
“I think I want them to play their game because we’ve been in situations where we let the other team take over and push us out of what we want to do,” Lucier said. “As we move forward, we’ve got the maturity and the floor experience that we need to get the looks we want and run the game how we want it to go. For the tournament time, that’s really what I’m hoping that we’re just able to show up and play our game.”