More work to do for Lady Redskins

Loudon’s Anna Farmer gets past an Ooltewah High School player on day two of the Christmas Classic tournament.

Loudon High School’s girls basketball team showed inexperience during a tough Christmas Classic tournament.

The Lady Redskins opened with a big loss to Livingston Academy, while familiar issues saw them slip to Ooltewah High School on day two.

Head coach Wiley Brakebill said his young team, which consists of 15 freshmen among 18 players, is still learning.

“I’ve got to figure out what I can do to get these girls in better positions and better situations, and I’ve just not got there,” Brakebill said. “We’ve got a lot of good talent that we can use and I just got to figure out how to put it all together for them. I’m really proud of the effort we had and how we performed out there. We just got to be able to get over the hump.”

Loudon endured a torrid start by Livingston as senior Emma Jenkins’ basket three minutes in was the team’s only points of the first quarter, ending 20-2. The second quarter was only a slight improvement, as Livingston cruised to a 42-8 lead at the half.

“(It) was a humbling experience,” Jenkins said. “We knew they were going to be very good. We just had to go there and do what we could. But considering all the freshmen we have, I thought that they did as well as they could have.”

The Redskins’ defense continued to fall short in the third quarter, but the offense had its best period of the game, scoring 11 points off two three-pointers and two free throws from Jenkins and a three-pointer from Addison Garner.

The quarter ended 67-19, but Brakebill was proud of the team’s spirit.

“One thing I’ve really appreciated about this team is that these ladies never give up, never quit and always cheer each other on,” he said. “I’ve been extremely proud of the way our players have supported each other and never quit, regardless of the score, regardless of what’s going on. They’re always positive, even in the face of adversity, and that just speaks a lot to their character and speaks a lot to their upbringing and how they’re going to fight no matter what’s on the scoreboard. And I love that about this team.”

Jenkins said players must learn how to deal with setbacks.

“You just got to love the game,” she said. “It’s just, you’re going to have games where you’re going to win, you’re going to have games where you’re going to get stomped, but you got to play through it.”

Livingston eased up in the final quarter, scoring only 10 points more to end the game at 77-22.

Rather than feel sorry for his team, Brakebill said they could use their opponent’s dominance as inspiration.

“Livingston Academy’s a really good team,” Brakebill said. “Extremely good. They beat Meigs by almost as bad as they beat us, so that is one solid basketball team. And for us, that’s kind of the goal. We want to be able to be a team that can push the ball in transition, that can press for 32 minutes, and I think that we’ll have the potential to get there. It’s just being able to develop these players to where they can be there in the next year or two.”

Loudon’s day two confrontation was a closer affair, but Ooltewah pulled ahead in the third quarter.

The Lady Redskins started strong, responding to every Ooltewah basket with one of their own to end the first quarter 14-14. They then took the lead in the second quarter when Jenkins scored two three-pointers within the first minute. Two successful free throws by Karissa Sharp and one by Baylee Yates, as well as three baskets by Anna Farmer, gave Loudon a 29-26 lead going into the break.

As has often been the case this season, however, a third-quarter slump gave Ooltewah the advantage. At the end of the third, the visitors were up 46-36.

“That’s kind of been what’s happening to us,” Brakebill said. “Somehow the third quarter we’re falling behind. And again, it’s what can I do to get us in better positions and better situations? Typically in that third quarter we have a few more turnovers, we’ve missed a few more boxouts, and at the end of the day I’ve got to get them in the positions that they need to be successful. And so just trying to figure out what I can do to help them coming out at halftime where we’re not finding that little slump right at the half.”

When the Lady Redskins fell behind, players started making more individual mistakes, a trend that had appeared the previous day against Livingston. For Brakebill, correcting those is all about experience.

“A lot of that comes with youth,” he said. “When you’re a freshman playing against girls that signed scholarships to go play next year, they’ve not quite hit that maturity of next-play mentality. And so that’s just something that just comes with growth, and hopefully again that’s something that I can do as a coach is get them into a little bit more comfortable positions to where they’re not having to think so much about all the technicalities and they just go out and play.”

Loudon was unable to bridge the points gap in the final quarter and fell 63-51.

“It’s just one of those,” Jenkins said. “We knew it was going to be a pretty close game based off just each team’s talent, but I personally thought we should have won it. But all of our players did what we could do, played our best and we never quit. Can’t be mad about it. Just one of those things you got to learn from.”

Despite the results, Brakebill said he was satisfied with the tournament and hoped to see Loudon High School host again.

“I love having it here,” Brakebill said. “I think that’s something really good that coach Josh Graves has done. I think it’s went really smoothly so I thank him for that, thank the community for coming out to support them, and next year we know some things to fix if we can do it again.

”As far as our team and our standpoint, it was great for us to play two really good teams here before the break and see what we’re going to work on,” he added. “Because we get a few days of break and I told them to just think about family, think about the season and kind of just take time off and when we come back after Christmas to be ready for a good week of work.”

The Lady Redskins return to the court Tuesday when they travel to Karns High School, followed by trips to Sequoyah High School and McMinn Central High School on Jan. 6 and 7, respectively.