The Loudon High School Redskins continue to ride a wave of momentum into the new year after pulling out a big 65-59 District 5-2A win Friday against the Meigs County High School Tigers.
The Redskins jumped out to a 27-10 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to seven three-point baskets — four from senior Haden Houser.
Meigs County fought back in the second quarter, but the Redskins maintained a 39-24 lead at halftime.
“I thought Houser did a really good job of finding the hole in the zone defense and knocked down a bunch of shots early, so that obviously gave us the hot start,” Josh Graves, LHS head boys basketball coach, said. “I thought they were a little careless with the ball against our press and we got a lot of transition points, which we need that because we’re smaller. I was pretty proud of how we started. It wasn’t our best finish, but we got gritty and found a way.”
The Tigers slowly clawed back into the game in the second half and turned up the intensity after still being down 17 points at the end of the third quarter. Meigs County scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and limited the Redskins to just eight points.
Graves attributed the Tigers’ comeback to a combination of being out of school and a lack of execution.
“We’ve never played that great when we’ve been out of school, but I just thought once we built a lead that we got complacent,” he said. “Defensively, we lost some guys, didn’t get matched up and they beat us down the floor a few times. We were gassed, plain and simple, and the boys finally told me. I wish they would be more honest with me early on, but they’re not going to let you know that. Our rotation has been about six guys in district play, and it is what it is. We’re trying to find some depth there, but I think that was the biggest thing is we got tired and we got complacent.”
Houser finished the night with a season-high 17 points and has become an impact player for the Redskins following the graduation of big men Noah Burnette and Tyler Whitfield.
“I don’t know, I just shot that first (three-pointer) when it was open just to test it and it went in,” Houser said. “I just kept chucking it up and I was inside the zone. I guess I was just feeling it, but I usually like shooting from that corner.”
Senior point guard Donavon Blankenship led the team in scoring with 24 points.
On Jan. 5 in a 80-39 win over Greenback School, Blankenship reached the coveted 1,000-point career milestone after dropping 20 points on the Cherokees. He joins former All-Region players Mason Small and Luke Joiner as the most recent to accomplish the feat.
“It means quite a bit to me because Mason, I knew I looked up to him,” Blankenship said. “There were other guys before me that did it and there’s not too many people to do it, so I mean it was an honor to be in a group with that caliber of players. The big picture is we want to beat Lenoir City twice and we want to go to the district championship game, so that’s all that means the most to me and my teammates.”
With a big stretch of District 5-2A games the next two weeks, Graves said the team is feeling the layover from Christmas break and will emphasize conditioning.
“I could’ve adjusted a whole lot better, and that’s what I told the boys is that part of that is on me,” Graves said. “Part of that is our conditioning is not where it needs to be, and that’s on me. It’s like I told them, we’re going to have to get ready for all these junk defenses that’s going to come our way because of what Donavon’s able to do as an individual. I just want those other four, five, six guys to play confidently. I felt like after a possession or two where we missed a shot or two there when they first went to that junk defense, our confidence kind of dropped down there a little bit.”
The Redskins battled the Sweetwater High School Wildcats after News-Herald presstime Tuesday in a pivotal district matchup. Loudon’s next District 5-2A game will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against the Polk County High School Wildcats.
The Redskins took the first matchup 51-43 over the Wildcats on Dec. 11.
“I know these boys will step up to the challenge,” Graves said. “Our other guys are going to have to step up, take shots, make plays and I know they’re more than capable of doing that. I’m excited to see our growth as a team. This game will help us grow and the guys may not understand that yet ... but they’re going to understand and look back and say, ‘You remember this Meigs game? This is what it did for us’.”