The Loudon High School Redskins were mired in another tight, physical game Friday on the road at Polk County High School, and hopes of extending a four-game win streak came to a halt thanks to a late push by the Wildcats.
The Redskins trailed as much as 11 points in the third quarter but battled back in the fourth with consecutive three-point plays from Gunter Millsaps and Keaton Harig to cut the lead to three with three minutes remaining.
However, the Redskins produced a flurry of late fouls and turnovers, which led Polk County to score 10 unanswered points down the stretch and walk away with a 61-54 victory.
“Man I love their fight, we went five minutes or so without a field goal and still had a chance to win it late,” Josh Graves, LHS head boys basketball coach, said. “We just forced some stuff and should’ve run a set late and a lot of questionable stuff officiating-wise tonight, but ultimately, that’s not what beat us. We’ve got to be better at little things, and we know we’re not stud-duck shooters and we’re not stud-duck athletes. We’ve got a good team and we’ve got kids that play their butts off. We’ve got to win at the little things and we didn’t do that.”
The Redskins matched up well with the Wildcats in the first quarter before PCHS went on an 8-0 run to regain the lead heading into the second quarter.
Broady Harrison led the charge with nine points in the first half to cut the Wildcats’ halftime lead to 35-31. Harrison fouled out late in the third quarter, which dealt a blow to the Redskins’ post attack.
“They’re so tough, offensively,” Graves said. “We had to play more man-to-man than we wanted. He (Luke Burrows) hit some tough shots early, shots no other kid around here is going to make, maybe Donovan (Blankenship), but he hit some tough ones early. I address that to him being at home and him being a good player, but I thought the second half, we did a little bit better job on him.”
Graves believes the atmosphere played a factor in the second half.
“Maybe a time or two, I don’t think it affected them overall, but I think a time or two it got a little bit rowdy,” he said. “They love their athletics down here, so I knew it would be a tough place to play. Down 12, we could’ve thrown in the towel, but the kids kept battling, kept fighting and that’s all I can ask of them. ... We just couldn’t score tonight. We’ve been holding people in the 30s and 40s, Meigs (County) in the 20s. I told myself this morning that we would have to hit 60.”
Junior guard Donovan Blankenship led the Redskins with 16 points but shared his frustrations with not being able to finish another tight game. The Redskins forced several critical turnovers, missed key shots and found themselves in late foul trouble.
“Coach always says we never give up no matter what the situation is, and I knew we weren’t totally out of it, so I was just trying to get the ball in my hands and get a quick three and it ended up working and we only got down like four points with that one time,” Blankenship said. “I mean, it (officiating) didn’t cost us the win, we could’ve done a lot of things, but I think the momentum shifted to their side when they were getting calls that they wanted, and we weren’t getting them. I think we just got kind of frustrated, and it got to us.”
The Redskins enjoyed a narrow 50-48 victory Monday over the Harriman High School Blue Devils, followed by another district matchup Tuesday after presstime against Meigs County High School.
Lady Redskins fall
The Loudon High School Lady Redskins saw an early second-quarter lead slowly diminish Friday en route to a 54-32 loss to the Polk County High School Lady Wildcats.
“They did a good job, defensively, I mean, you’ve got to give them a little bit of credit,” Josh Brannon, LHS head girls basketball coach, said. “I thought our shot selection in the second half was pretty solid. There were things at times that I felt like we missed opportunities on schematically and execution-wise on both sides of the floor. I thought our effort was pretty good. We got a lot of clean shots, a lot of good looks and they weren’t falling and we weren’t getting a lot of second-chance opportunities against them, and so it’s hard. We didn’t play well enough, offensively ... that mixed with foul trouble, it was kind of the perfect storm in the second half. We missed an opportunity to steal one on the road.”
LHS junior guard Carrie Pittman scored 11 of the Lady Redskins’ 15 first-quarter points — nine of which were from the arc. However, Loudon managed just seven points in the second quarter and gave up 15 on defense.
Polk County’s defense continued to stifle the Lady Redskins in the second half.
“We went zone in about four possessions, and we didn’t communicate well at all,” Brannon said. “That’s one of those things, execution-wise, that we didn’t do a great job of. Our focus after the Sweetwater game and really going into that game, this whole entire week was improvement in communication across the board ... and I don’t feel like we did that consistently enough to win the game.”
Despite a slow start to the season, Brannon believes his team has drastically improved since December.
“We are a lot deeper,” he said. “I feel like our young kids have continued to step up and get better, as well as our older kids are staying the course and continuing to improve themselves. We’re a much different ball team. I think offensively, we’ve got a little more options there. I think we’ve got more kids that can score at any given time, so this was a good learning experience for our kids, and this will help our basketball team only improve as we continue to play our best basketball as the season progresses.”
The Lady Redskins fell Monday 41-30 to the Harriman High School Lady Blue Devils and played Meigs County on Tuesday after presstime.