Lady Grizzlies fall in sectional game for second year in a row, lose to CAK 65-58
Grainger High’s Laura Johnson (20) goes up for two points against CAK Saturday at CAK High School in Knoxville. The Lady Grizzlies lost 65-58 to mark the second consecutive year they have been eliminated one game before the state tournament.
KNOXVILLE — The Grainger Lady Grizzlies faced a familiar situation in their sectional game Saturday night at Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK).
Last year, the Lady Grizzlies lost in the regional finals and had to go to Loudon to play in the deciding game as to who would advance to the state tournament. After Wednesday’s disappoint loss at Elizabethton, Grainger once again had to travel for the sectional, this time to CAK.
Unfortunately for the Lady Grizzlies, history repeated itself. A slow start to the game proved too much to overcome as the Lady Warriors advanced to next week’s state tournament with a 65-58 win over the Lady Grizzlies. Grainger’s season comes to an end at 32-2.
The Lady Grizzlies could not seem to get anything going offensively in the opening period as they missed their first nine field goal attempts, falling behind the Lady Warriors 12-1. That fact was the determining factor in the loss according to a disappointed GHS head coach Justin Combs.
“We had another slow start and we didn’t answer the bell to start the game,” Combs said. “We got down 12-1 and only lost by seven so that was the story of the game. You can’t spot them 11 points and expect to win.”
Celeste Stratton had a monster game for Grainger as she scored a game-high 24 points which included four three pointers. Laura Johnson had 13 points, Allison Hodge had 11 and Blake Lamb added 10.
CAK was paced by Kelsey Nelers’ 16 points. Kaycee Heitzman had 15 and Anna Hammaker had 13. But the biggest factor in the Lady Warrior’s win was the play of 6-6 center Cheyenne Hooper who had a triple double with 12 points, 12 blocks and 10 rebounds.
“We ran into another hot-shooting team again that made buckets and we couldn’t make them,” Combs stated after the game. “I am proud of the way the girls played all the way to the end, they kept battling and fighting and never gave up.”
Hodge’s field goal at the 1:14 mark was the first for Grainger in the first period. Lamb nailed a three-pointer with three seconds left to cut the CAK lead to 13-8 at the end of the first period.
Johnson was true on a three early in the second frame to narrow the lead for the home team to 15-11. But CAK reeled off a 10-2 run to build some cushion. Stratton hit a three pointer and had a driving, scoop lay-up over CAK’s Hooper with one second left to narrow the Lady Warrior lead to 28-21 after two periods.
Grainger kept things close midway through the third period and trailed 32-27 on a jumper by Hodge. But a three-pointer by Heitzman and another one by Neler gave CAK another big advantage. Hodge’s basket made it 45-35 at the end of the third period.
The opening of the fourth and final period was unproductive for the Lady Grizzlies as CAK scored six straight to take their biggest lead of the game at 51-35. Just when it appeared the Lady Warriors would blow the game open, Stratton banged home two three’s to get Grainger back into the contest.
Grainger had to step up the defensive pressure and the result was the Lady Warriors went to the free throw line 14 times in the final five minutes where they connected on 10. But the Lady Grizzlies hit some baskets of their own including another trey by Stratton to trim the lead to 63-54. Stratton’s final two points came at the line to make it 64-58 and Hammaker iced the game with a free toss to seal the win.
Despite the disappointment of the loss once again in the sectional, the Lady Grizzlies should be proud of another highly successful season. Grainger is 64-6 over the last two years with two district championships and two trips to the sectional to their credit. With most of the team returning in 2013-14, another run towards the state tournament could be in the works for the Lady Grizzlies.
-By Marlin Curnutt, Tribune Correspondent