Panthers start season on strong note

Lenoir City High School's David Ross, left, cuts to the basket Thursday in the Panthers' 80-52 win over the Greenback School Cherokees.

The Josh Brannon era is off to a good start as the Lenoir City High School Panthers basketball team (2-0) kicked off the 2020 regular season last week with two dominant wins.

The first-year head coach led the Panthers to an impressive season-opening 81-50 road win Nov. 17 over the Coalfield School Yellowjackets.

One noticeable difference was the energy and sheer excitement players and coaching staff brought to the game.

"It's always good to start out with two opening wins the first week of the season," Brannon said. "Some of the things that have been encouraging are just the energy and the enthusiasm that our guys played with throughout the entire ball game. I think our guys do a good job of playing fast, our guys do a good job of playing physical and they played hard for the duration of the ball game. Those guys were playing their very first game on the road, it was a lengthy trip away and for all of the unknowns and not being able to play over the summer or any scrimmages in the fall ... for them to come out and get off to a quick start was very encouraging."

The Panthers followed up Thursday with a 80-52 win over the Greenback School Cherokees at home.

Nearly every varsity player received playing time, with 12 of 15 of those scoring. Seniors David Ross and Scory Correa led the charge with 21 and 15 points, respectively.

"I thought Greenback did a good job, I thought they ran some good stuff and I thought they had good guard play," Brannon said. "I thought we got a lot out of playing Greenback. We went out there and for us to beat an in-county school was important, and again, it's just another step in the right direction for our guys in learning how we want them to play and figure out another way to win two times in a week. That's a big step for our program moving forward."

Players credit the new coaching staff for getting the team ready under less than ideal circumstances.

"Our energy level and our intensity is way out of the roof right now," Correa said. "We're going hard every game, and I feel like we come out more energetic and run the floor more. We get open on the fast break, and that's how we like to play is run and gun. I feel like that's brought our team a lot of success. We always come out in practice ready to work, and I feel like our coaching staff has made that a priority to stay urgent."

Several underclassmen — Drew Henry, Dalton Varner, Zach McNabb and Kobe Franklin — received valuable playing time, which should help spark competition within the team.

Brannon said nothing is off the table when it comes to playing time and putting as many players as possible on the floor if it means winning games and creating quality depth.

"We're just trying to develop depth, especially early on in the season given the fact we weren't able to play games over the summer, weren't able to have scrimmages in the fall," he said. "Being able to afford guys extra reps throughout the ball game at the varsity speed will only pay dividends as this thing progresses. Basketball's a tournament sport and getting guys growing amongst the elite, so to speak, is huge. As often as we can get guys in there and get them acclimated to the varsity speed, I mean, that's just an investment that's going to bode best for us as we move forward as a program."

Lenoir City hosted Maryville Christian School on Monday and improved to 3-0 with a 65-50 win. The Panthers' next game is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against the Knoxville Ambassadors.

"Just keep grinding, keep working and we're ready to get into district play," Correa said. "We want to win some basketball games, that's all."