Panthers end regular season on high note

Lenoir City High School point guard Scory Correa lays in a basket Friday in the Panthers’ 61-46 win over the Loudon High School Redskins.

After suffering a 14-point loss to Loudon High School three weeks ago, the Lenoir City High School Panthers entered Friday’s rematch thinking revenge.

The Panthers got off to a hot start, led 20-5 in the first quarter and thwarted nearly every Loudon offensive possession in the second quarter to hold a 33-12 lead at halftime.

LCHS sophomore forward Parker Tramell and sophomore guard Kobe Franklin each scored 10 points in the first half.

“The difference between the first game and this one was, obviously, we had more players that were ready and available, as Loudon did, too,” Josh Brannon, LCHS head boys basketball coach, said. “Our guys just continued to stay the course and play the way that we want for 32 minutes. It’s not that we didn’t down there, but we shot it a better clip here and were better offensively. I thought defensively, we did a better job but struggled to score. In the first half here, we just got off to a good start and our guys took care of the basketball and made simple winning plays through the entirety of the ballgame, which was very clutch for us.”

The Redskins pushed back in the third quarter to outscore the Panthers 18-10, but Lenoir City caught fire again in the fourth quarter en route to a 61-46 win.

LCHS players said an attitude adjustment was needed.

“Our mindset coming in was this was a must-win game, and Coach Brannon never pressured us to win games but I just feel like it was a mindset of everyone that we were going to come out, execute and win by a big margin,” Scory Correa, LCHS senior point guard, said. “I felt like we tried to come out hot in the beginning so that it wouldn’t be close in the rest of the game.”

“These past couple of games, they’ve been a little bit more rough for me and I haven’t performed the way I’ve wanted to,” Parker Tramell, LCHS sophomore forward, added. “I’ve been talking with my coach, and I just knew I had to change it up today and work harder than I’ve ever had to before to try and get this win for the team. I was just trying to push myself to the limit every play. This is huge because they were talking about having this big win streak, and we just took that with a grain of salt.”

Teamed with senior center Tucker Yancey, Tramell has been a major factor for the Panthers in the paint.

“As the season’s went along, I’ve gone against some bigger opponents, some tougher opponents,” Tramell said. “I feel like I’ve definitely been getting significantly stronger playing against those bigger opponents and just being able to score better.”

Brannon praised the Panthers’ defensive effort in holding Loudon to the third-lowest offensive output this season.

“It was good because it was consistent, but I’m sure we had a couple of lapses here and there,” Brannon said. “There’s going to be some things we’ve got to continue to improve upon, but the defense was consistent through the entirety of the ballgame. Guys stuck to the plan and didn’t deviate, and it showed and did a good job of containing a really good player (Donavon Blankenship) and a really good team.”

Brannon in his first year at the helm guided Lenoir City to its best record (10-12, 3-12 District 4-3A) since the 2017-18 season when the Panthers won 11 games.

A large part of the team’s success has been Brannon’s approach to creating a winning culture in the locker room.

“It’s been such a great first year, and there’s been so many positives this year,” he said. “Our goal this season was starting to implement the culture that we want to see because we have some wonderful kids, we’ve got some wonderful players here in this program and if we can get them going on the right track in this first season, it’s going to help them continue to buy into what we see for them. It’s been a very, very successful first season. Our guys compete and do the small things, and that’s what has made us competitive in a tough league and have some success this year.”

Initiating trust and developing relationships between players and coaches is something that has seemingly been missing in the boys program for years, but the new coaching staff has put in hours creating relationships within the team and the community to help expedite the rebuilding process.

Brannon believes the program has the capability to be what it once was, if not better.

“Like we talked about in the spring when I got the job, it starts with getting to know these guys and developing that trust and those relationships,” Brannon said. “Once you get to know each individual and start at a baseline, you kind of get to know how you operate and how they operate. That process kind of evolves because in certain phases, there’s a time to love up on them. In certain phases, there’s a time to be the opposite of that. It’s just about staying in tune and staying in sync, and that’s something I felt like has been a bright spot for something that myself and our staff have done is developing those meaningful relationships.”

The Panthers took on the Hardin Valley Academy Hawks on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime in the first round of the District 4-3A tournament.