COSBY - Rarely does a basketball game feature two back-to-back All-State players but that was the case Tuesday night as Grainger traveled to take on Cosby.
Tori Rutherford for Grainger and Cosby’s Bralyn McGaha have been recognized for their on-court performances the past two seasons and both players had great games for their respective teams on Tuesday. Sixth-ranked Grainger pulled away in the fourth period to claim a 55-40 win.
McGaha led Cosby with 10 points and Rutherford scored 10 for Grainger. Sydnie Hayes had the hot hand for Grainger as she led the team with 13 points. Matty Tanner finished with 11 points and Lauren Longmire had 10. Grainger moves to 18-2 on the season and will face Greeneville on the road Thursday night. Cosby falls to 10-5 and will host Morristown East Friday.
Both Grainger head coach Rusty Bishop and Cosby head coach Cody Lowe were singing the praises of the other All-State player their team had to deal with on Tuesday. “McGaha can absolutely play. She was a tough guard and she makes Cosby go like Tori does for us. She is a really great player,” Bishop said. “Both Tori and Bralyn are true point guards and they put team first and that is why they are both special. They both could go out and score 25 points per game but that is not who they are. They want to get their teammates involved and they both could be Miss Basketball finalists, I really believe that,” Lowe said when talking about Rutherford and McGaha.
The Lady Grizzlies went up 13-2 on back to back baskets by Longmire but Cosby responded with two late 3-pointers to cut the lead to 16-10 going to the second. Lea Great got the game down to a single possession when she drained another triple to make it 16-15 early in the second. Grainger got some breathing room when Hayes hit two shots from downtown but Cosby was able to stick around and only trail 26-22 at the half.
Grainger built an 11-point advantage to start the third period before the Lady Eagles climbed back into it. Cosby only trailed 41-30 at the end of three but Hayes scored four quick points and then the Lady Grizzlies netted eight in a row, highlighted by Hayes who had a hoop and harm play. McGaha had two shots from deep late to make the final score 55-40.
“I knew Cosby would play well tonight because Cody does a great job,” Bishop said. “We started 13-2 but then they took all the momentum. They are very guard oriented like we are. We had a stretch there when they went to their zone where we had a hard time scoring but we finally figured it out. I had no doubt Cody would have them ready and they would be breathing fire and we sure did get their best shot tonight.”
Lowe said that he knew his team would face defensive pressure unlike they had seen all season and he was pleased for the most part with how the Lady Eagles responded. “This was the first time we had been pressed all year long and we spent about 30 minutes in practice to go over the press offense because I knew they would press us. I thought we did pretty well against the press, we had a few silly turnovers when they sped us up in the front court but I was pleased with the way we responded tonight. We fought and played pretty well tonight and really fought. There was a stretch there in the fourth where it sort got away from us.
Grainger is really good and it feels like when you play them, you have to value every possession because if you don’t, they will make a three or they will get a blow-by or an offensive rebound put-back. I think they are one of the best teams in East Tennessee and I respect coach Bishop for all he does.”