Galyon, No. 4 ranked Lady Trojans ready to begin TSSAA state tourney
The Morristown West High Lady Trojans celebrate after defeating Maryville on Saturday night. On Tuesday, the Lady Trojans will be practicing at the University of Tennessee and will then head to Murfreesboro to face Rossview on Wednesday morning.
A little more than 48 hours have passed since Saturday’s overtime win in the TSSAA Class AAA Sectionals over Maryville, but Morristown West girls’ coach Johnny Galyon is still beaming with pride at what his team has accomplished.
With his fourth ranked Lady Trojans (30-3) heading to Murfreesboro for a Class AAA State Tournament opener against Rossview (27-3) at 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, Galyon’s two previous trips to the event have been valuable for a team short on big-stage experience.
The coach has tried to keep things light with his team to keep them relaxed, and he even joked about how much better things are when you can play in the state tournament.
“I told the girls the food will taste better down there, the air will feel better and the drinks will be a little tastier,” Galyon joked. “I told them it was a bigger stage, but the team that executes their plan the best and plays harder usually is the team that comes out on top.”
The run to Murfreesboro began with an unexpected loss in the District 2-AAA championship game to rival Jefferson County, who used that momentum to make a state tournament run themselves.
Galyon admitted the loss, which ended a 16-game winning streak, worked to their advantage, and coupled with the loss of sophomore All-IMAC guard Abbe Craine to a knee injury, made the team rally together to become stronger.
“I thought it refocused us a little bit,” Galyon said. “Our seniors kind of woke us up there, and we’ve had great senior leadership. Our freshmen have made an impact, and it just seems like they have rallied and gotten stronger after the unfortunate injury to Abbe (Craine).”
One big reason the team has made their run is due to the play of freshmen Blayke Shultz and Sydney Newsome.
The duo have shown steady improvement all season, with Newsome leading the team in scoring at nearly 14 points per game.
“Blayke is a very capable guard. She’s quick and she’s smart,” Galyon said. “She’s not your average freshman, and she has done everything that we have asked. She’s been a huge part of what we have accomplished and she will only get better.”
“Sydney is one of those up and coming players in the IMAC, and I feel like she will be one of the better ones to play in the district in a long time. She’s got room for improvement and she continues to improve. She leads us in scoring, and you just don’t see that much from a freshman.”
Galyon added the leadership from the seniors has been huge down the stretch, and the chance to let their careers end in the state tournament was why the celebration after Saturday’s win over Maryville was such an emotional one for the coaching staff.
“I think that’s why we reacted the way we have reacted in the postseason,” Galyon said of getting his seniors to the state tournament. “We know the work we have put in and how hard it is to get there. It takes a tremendous amount of work and dedication, and these seniors have exemplified that. They have stuck it out and now they are getting rewarded for it.”
One senior in particular had a big night to get the Lady Trojans to Murfreesboro, as Carson-Newman signee Jecca Simerly had 18 points in the Sectional win.
Galyon said he has come to expect that kind of performance from Simerly, especially in big time games.
“Jecca really stepped up Saturday night, and when you least expect it, she steps up like that and plays so much better than you expected,” Galyon said. “When the games get bigger, Jecca knows exactly what is on the line. She’s easily one of my top five favorite players I have coached, and now she has a four-year scholarship to a great program.”
As for Wednesday’s opponent, Galyon believes the matchup with a bigger Rossview team will come down to who is able to rebound better. With their size disadvantage, it will also be important to keep Lady Hawks out of the paint with the ball in their hands.
“Their record speaks for itself, and they will be a lot bigger than we are,” Galyon said. “They are athletic and big, and I think it will boil down to rebounding. If we can’t rebound with them, we will have a hard time but our kids will be ready.
“They like to extend the floor and try to make you play fast, but the thing I learned from watching them is that they are really big and physical. They will punch it inside on just about every single possession, so we have to do a good job of keeping them out of the paint.
“This could be the kind of game where a Christina Zimmerman or a Jasmine Williams or somebody that hasn’t broken out in a while could play a big role,” Galyon said. “Those two played huge in the regionals and made a few plays during the Sectional game. Zimmerman has played huge down the postseason stretch, and I’m so proud of her. She’s kind of undersized and playing out of position, but she just finds a way to get it done. She’s a big play player.”
Galyon said he expects to see the best from his team when they hit the floor Wednesday morning, and no matter the result, they will play hard for four quarters and leave it all on the court.
“I expect it to be kind of like substate,” Galyon said. “I expect 13 determined girls from Morristown to play hard for 32 minutes, representing their town and their school with 110 percent effort.”
-By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor