The Loudon High School Redskins (13-8, 6-3 District 5-2A) came out firing on all cylinders and never looked back Thursday en route to an 81-26 win over cross-county rival Greenback School to complete a season sweep of the Cherokees (2-17, 2-6 District 2-1A).
Loudon’s depth proved overwhelming against the Cherokees’ eight-man bench.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to clear the bench and have a lot of guys come in and contribute, and I’m very proud of those guys to come out and take care of business like they should have,” Josh Graves, LHS head boys basketball coach, said. “Going into this little layoff because of sickness, I was glad that we came out and played well. Playing subpar would’ve been a tough taste to hold onto for a five-day break.”
The Redskins shot 66 percent from the field as a team, and senior guard Lucas Bivens led the way with 16 points — all of which came in the first half.
Facing off against the Cherokees added to the team’s motivation, Bivens said.
“The team ran zone, so I kind of got to high post there,” he said. “My teammates were feeding me, and our zone offense was really kicking tonight. It’s always a rival, the county games.”
The Redskins forced a plethora of turnovers and attacked in transition to jump out to a 50-11 halftime lead.
“The last couple of games, I feel like we’ve changed up our transition offense-defense, we’re doing a little type of setup or drill or however you want to call it,” Graves said. “In practice, it’s a lot more up tempo, it’s a lot more focused ... it’s focused a little more on the offense, but we still work a little defense in it, too. It allows us to be, one, a little more efficient with our time and a little more efficient with what we’re trying to do, and it gets the point across of pushing the pace and knowing when to go and when not to. It’s helped us to push and not force turnovers that aren’t there either.”
The bench continued to carry the fight in the second half, which was a big positive for Graves.
“It means a lot, you know, those guys that get to play a ton, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but those guys make us better every day in practice,” he said. “When their number’s called, whenever that may be, I don’t have concern there, I don’t have any worry. Not only does it help us for this year, but it also reassures me some of those younger guys on varsity, you know, that don’t play a ton this year but will next year, it lets us know that our future is still bright with these young men. It’s nice to be able to do that and not miss a beat.”
Since falling to Polk County High School on Jan. 17, the Redskins have won five straight, including three consecutive district wins against Meigs County, McMinn Central and Sequoyah.
“Not only this win, but the past few wins have for sure boosted our confidence,” Bivens said. “The big win tonight will help us also. For sure after Christmas break. I think the Christmas tournament gave us good experience and then playing a really good Kingston team helped us. From there on, we’ve turned the corner.”
The Redskins postponed Friday’s game against Sweetwater and canceled Tuesday’s game against Fulton due to illness, which forced the team to miss five consecutive days of practice heading into Thursday and Friday’s games against Maryville Christian and Kingston, respectively.
Loudon will now take on Sweetwater on Feb. 10 at SHS for the final District 5-2A game of the regular season.
“I encouraged them, I said, ‘Guys, don’t let this break hurt us, let it help us’,” Graves said. “It could help us in the sense of we’re getting some time off, they’ve played two three-game weeks in a row and a two-game week this week if I’m not mistaken, and that’s a lot of games in a short timeframe. This break can allow us to get our legs back, recuperate and get our strength back from a physical standpoint. ... But I told them, ‘If you don’t get in the gym and shoot and purposefully shoot for 20, 30 minutes at least, get shots up and work on your craft, it’ll show when we come back’.”