Following a tough 61-46 loss Friday to rival Lenoir City High School, the Loudon High School Redskins are now focusing on winning the District 5-2A tournament championship.
The Redskins (15-9, 8-2 District 5-2A) struggled to score in the first half, bucketing just 12 points and giving up 33.
LHS head coach Josh Graves made some adjustments at halftime and created more opportunities for senior guard Donavon Blankenship.
Blankenship finished the night with 27 points — 21 in the second half.
Graves credited the Panthers for getting off to a hot start and maintaining aggressive play throughout the game.
“We were 2-of-17 from three maybe and were 1-of-17 for a long time, but at that point it was too much,” Graves said. “We’ve been on the guys, we’re not shooting it well lately and we’ve got to get to the basket. You’ve got to be the aggressive team and get down hill, and we didn’t do it and they did. I thought they played inspired and they came out with a good game plan, and their kids wanted it and it showed. They came out and punched us in the mouth. For a little bit there, we didn’t really respond. We responded early in the second half and I think the closest we got was 10, but it is what it is. I feel like all their guys were hitting and were unconscious in the first half. Some of that is on me.”
One positive was senior forward Broady Harrison returned to action after missing the last two weeks for a knee injury suffered in the Redskins’ 57-43 win over the Panthers in the first meeting.
He said he is close to being 100% healthy in time for the District 5-2A tournament. Harrison was named to the All-District 5-2A first team.
“I just thought that we came out pretty slow,” Harrison said. “We had a good game plan and Coach Graves knew what he was doing, but that was our fault because we didn’t execute what we were supposed to do. We couldn’t buy a bucket and had the looks there in the first quarter, but we couldn’t get anything to fall. We haven’t shot the ball well the past six games and, of course, LC came out and was on fire and hitting everything.
“My injury is better and Friday was my first game back in two weeks,” he added. “Honestly, no I wasn’t 100% but I wasn’t going to miss my senior year Lenoir City basketball game. It was bothering me at times, and coach took me out every couple of minutes and asked me how I was doing. I’ll be completely fine by tournament time.”
The Redskins started the season 15-3 but have dropped the last six straight games.
“We’ve had guys who have knocked down shots earlier in the year and they’re just not hitting them right now, but the problem is we keep on shooting them when we’re not hitting them,” Graves said. “At some point, you can’t beat a dead horse. Some of our guys aren’t really cut out for that, the dribble drive. At this point, it doesn’t matter. When you’re 5-of-23 tonight or whatever we were, you’ve got to go to the basket and that’s an adjustment we’ve got to make. We can’t be trigger happy in a district tournament game. A hungry, younger seed that played two days before ... we’ll be fresh because we haven’t played but if you played two days earlier, you’re kind of in a rhythm.”
The Redskins will play again at 6:30 p.m. Friday at home against the winner of Meigs County and McMinn Central in the District 5-2A semifinals.
As the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Redskins have secured a region tournament berth.
“Regardless of the region tournament, we want to get in that district championship at least,” Graves said. “We want to win it, but we want to get in it. We want to win it because that’s what you play for but if you win it, then Chattanooga teams have to come to you and you play their lower seed, which that’s a much better draw for us. That’s kind of what we look like, and we’ve just got to focus on us.”