Redskins see early success on court

Loudon High School’s Donovan Blankenship drives down the court Dec. 3 in the Redskins’ 51-49 win over the Lenoir City High School Panthers.

After starting the season with a tough 72-41 loss to Anderson County High School, the Loudon High School Redskins basketball team is beginning to heat up in time for District 5-2A play.

The Redskins won the next three straight games, including a momentum-shifting 51-49 victory Dec. 3 over cross county rival Lenoir City High School.

“I think it’s huge, especially for some of those younger guys that got to play in the Harriman and Maryville Christian games,” Josh Graves, LHS head boys basketball coach, said. “You know, we had two hours of practice and played Lenoir City and for us to gut check and find a way, it’s good for our kids and good for our confidence. Yeah, we played summer ball, but we’ve got a lot of new guys, some guys that didn’t play last year and then try to get younger ones in the mix, so it was good for us to go into a pressure situation like that and kind of come together down four with 3 1/2, four minutes and make it happen.”

Following the Nov. 26 win over Harriman, the Redskins added seven players to the roster from the football team, including seniors Drew Jackson, Tyler Whitfield, Noah Burnette and sophomore Keaton Harig.

“You know, it’s different because it’s a totally different sport,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to calm down a lot more; it’s not as aggressive. We’re just out there getting used to the feel of the game and getting back with the boys.”

The transition from football to basketball can be challenging for a variety of reasons, but players have adjusted quickly.

“I mean, it’s a different type of endurance, but transitioning so far, I’ve been pretty good,” Jackson said. “I haven’t had any days where I’m just like really tired, so it’s been pretty good.”

Junior guard Donovan Blankenship stepped up as a team leader in absence of half the roster and is excited with the latest additions to the team.

“I mean, I guess it was a big start,” he said. “We beat Lenoir City — that’s what we were wanting to do and then we beat Harriman, so we’ve got a good start since the football guys have been back. It’s been a huge transition. Without those guys, we’re a totally different team. We were a little bit rusty at first in the LC game, but we came back and won the game, so it was all good. ... It’s no different than ever — our chemistry is pretty good this year I would say.”

The Redskins received an unexpected full week of practice last week, following a game cancelation with District 3-2A foe Meigs County High School. The game with the Tigers has been rescheduled for Jan. 21.

Loudon kicked off district play Tuesday after presstime against Sequoyah High School and will welcome Polk County High School on Friday.

“Where we’re at right now, I feel pretty good about having that full week of practice last week,” Graves said. “Hopefully, it’ll benefit us and get us back into basketball mode a little bit more. Both of those are tough opponents. Polk County’s probably one of the more seasoned teams in our district. (Luke) Burrows, (Eli) Cross, (Josh) Groomes and all those guards he’s got have played since they were freshmen and sophomores, and they’re all seniors, so they’re going to be tough. I mean, any night in district’s going to be a tough one. ... Any given night, it could go either team’s way. I feel like we’re pretty seasoned with who we have, we’ve got experience in the district and know what we’re capable of.”

The Redskins will look to shut down Polk County’s potent three-point attack.

“We know Polk County likes to shoot a lot of threes, so we’re really going to have get out there and guard them,” Blankenship said. “We know Luke Burrows is a really good player, so we’re really going to have to try and stop him.”

Lady Redskins growingThe LHS Lady Redskins got off to a fast start, winning the first two games of the season against Anderson County and Maryville Christian but proceeded to drop their next two by a combined score of 108-66 to Harriman and Lenoir City last week.

Despite falling to 2-2, head girls basketball coach Josh Brannon is pleased.

“I think we’re off to a pretty good start. We’ve been playing more competitively across the board,” he said. “We’ve grabbed a couple of wins so far early in the season, so we’re ahead of last year’s pace and the kids are playing very hard, playing very hard for each other and playing well together.”

Brannon has already noted differences in the program compared to last year at this time.

“I think, one, they’ve had a year of our system under their belts, so it was not as much of a learning curve for our returning players, so I think that that helped,” he said. “In comparison to last year, our kids are continuing to play harder, and I think our personnel this year allows us to do some things that we did not do as much last year, so I think it’s been a faster start to the season than last year.”

Although still young and inexperienced, the Lady Redskins will look to upend the District 3-2A standings early.

“I just want to see us go out there and continue to improve,” Brannon said. “Every possession, get better, get better and the wins will take care of themselves ... go out there and give ourselves a chance to win every single time that we have a game. I feel like this team has more confidence. I feel like they’re starting to expect to win more, so as far as where we stand in the grand scheme things, only time will tell.”