Despite a slow start since returning from the Christmas break, Lenoir City High School head girls basketball coach Tim Smith is encouraging the young Lady Panthers squad to keep their collective heads up.
The team picked up the first win in over a month Jan. 5 after defeating the Knoxville Ambassadors 53-19. The Lady Panthers followed up Thursday and Friday with losses to Sequoyah and Farragut, respectively.
The Lady Panthers suffered the worst loss of the season Monday against the top-ranked Bearden High School Lady Bulldogs, 68-19.
“We were trying to milk the clock as much as possible because we know we can’t run with them or have the height,” Smith said. “We wanted to be more physical, and at times we did OK, but we just couldn’t stop them. We turned the ball over, and our thing was to do simple things like fake a pass and make a pass. We had three or four there at one point in the first half where we just gave it away, it’s not fast enough and they get a layup. We did some good things in the first quarter and did the same thing against Farragut where we matched them, but once we had some failure, we struggled with that.”
Senior forward Christa Angelos led the way with 13 points against Bearden. She also led the team with 13 points in the 46-30 loss to Sequoyah.
“Well, I felt a bunch of pressure to be one of the main scorers and to be a leader,” Angelos said. “I guess I’ve just felt pressured to score. We had a solid two weeks off for Christmas and quarantining, and so we’re getting back in the groove very slowly and trying to get in the gym as much as possible. You can tell we were set back.”
Turnovers and a lack of physical aggression have plagued the Lady Panthers in the first half of the season, but the team was able to emphasize those aspects in practice during Christmas break.
“I think I did see some things that I liked, but there are some things we need to work on,” Smith said. “The break hurt us, definitely, shooting-wise because we were kind of shut down and isolated, even though we did come into the gym. We’ve had so many kids that have been in and out and rushed being in shape. When you take two weeks off and if the kids don’t do anything on their own and there’s so much stuff going on with Christmas ... we needed the Christmas tournament in order to consistently stay in shape and needed to be in the gym. I think for us it’s a little harder, but it is what it is and we’ve got to deal with it.”
Smith has been impressed with the way several younger players have stepped up since the beginning of the season.
Sophomore center Katelyn Kilgore has developed into a more physical post presence, and sophomore point guard Natalie Johnson has taken more control in the backcourt. Smith also complimented juniors Perry Moore, Marah Norwood and Hadlee Presnell for the minutes they’ve provided.
“Katelyn Kilgore is really physical and works really hard, and you can always count on that,” Smith said. “You’ve got Helen (Harper) who is learning to play almost a point guard spot, which is hard for her and she shows some stuff. Kaley Clabough is another kid that missed all summer and almost all of summer. We’ve got Marah Norwood and not having her at practice has really affected her and us. If she’s shooting well, she’s playing better. It’s a mental thing and she’s just got to get more shots up. We’re playing a lot of younger kids early on.”
The Lady Panthers will have two more tall tasks this week when they host the West High School Lady Rebels (3-5, 0-4 District 4-3A) at 6 p.m. Thursday and travel Friday to take on the Maryville High School Lady Rebels (10-3, 3-2 District 4-3A).
“It’s a hard process in this league when you’re not getting other games that we need to develop confidence,” Smith said. “Thursday we’ve got West and Friday we’ve got Maryville, and so there’s not a whole lot of time with all these games that we have to make up to get enough practice time in the gym to keep your legs. It’s just hard, but it is what it is and our kids can better at a lot of things.”