RUTLEDGE- The first state rankings game out this week and the Grainger Lady Grizzlies found themselves in familiar territory as they are counted among Tennessee’s elite once again.
The Lady Grizzlies took to the court Tuesday night as the 7th-ranked girls team in 2-A. Cumberland Gap used their height inside to hang around for a while but in the end the Lady Grizzlies applied the pressure and pulled away for a 68-47 victory at The Den.
Grainger improves to 16-2 overall and are 6-0 in league play. Tori Rutherford led the Lady Grizz with 27 points. Lauren Longmire added 15 points. Nevaeh Kerns scored 12 and Abigail Garner had 11 points for the Lady Panthers.
“I told our team coming in that Cumberland Gap does a lot of things we don’t like,” Grainger head coach Rusty Bishop said of Tuesday’s opponent. “They are big and physical and if they slowed the game down to get into a half-court game, they could give us trouble. We have tried to put an emphasis the last few weeks on boxing out on the defensive end and trying to get to the rim on the offensive end. In the first half, we weren’t good at boxing out and they got two and three-shot opportunities. We did a better job in the second and third quarters. Cumberland Gap was a good team for us to play, it’s not always pretty and not easy every night but I told our team I was proud of the way they grinded. Nothing was easy tonight.”
The Lady Panthers clogged up the middle and avoided the Grainger pressure in the first period and only trailed 15-10 at the end of the opening eight minutes of play. They got the score down to a single point but the Lady Grizz were able to pull away a bit by scoring eight in a row. Rutherford provided the highlight of the night when she beat the halftime buzzer with a half-court three to give the home team a 33-24 lead.
After the Lady Panthers were able to slice into the lead, Grainger reeled off 10 points in 1:13 to put the game away midway through the third period. After the Lady Grizzlies extended Cumberland Gap’s deficit to 25 points, they were able to rest the starters. The Lady Panthers’ reserves were able to score 12 points down the stretch but Grainger still prevailed 68-47.
The Lady Grizzlies will next be in action on Jan. 19 when they host Cosby.