Rusty Bishop’s Grainger girls’ basketball squad on Thursday evening against North Greene picked up right where they left off last season.
The Lady ‘Grizz scored the first eight points of the contest and never looked back, cruising to a 75-54 win in their season opener.
“There was a lot of unknowns, no summer, no scrimmages and the only people we got to bang on were ourselves,” Bishop said. “This was their fourth game, and I was a little nervous about timing and substitution patterns and all that. I think our girls adjusted well, and I was very proud of the way we controlled the paint. I thought we controlled the game from the tip.”
Not knowing what to expect because of the lack of practice time and lack of games played, Bishop relied on his three leaders who have been here before to provide calmness and experience on the floor. For Tori Rutherford, Lauren Longmire and Matty Tanner, they did just that.
Rutherford was her normal self, leading the team with 19 points and wreaking havoc on the defensive end as she caused turnover after turnover.
Longmire added nine points while Tanner had eight.
“We have three great senior leaders that bring it every day in practice,” Bishop said. “They bring it in the classroom and on the floor too. We are very blessed to have them and our junior class too who is coming along. Those two groups have been there before, so we don’t usually get surprised by anything. I am just proud of the way they handled this.”
Along with those three, Alia Maloney had 12 points for the Lady Grizz while Millie Hurst had six and Audrey Stratton had five. Sydnie Hayes added nine points as well.
North Greene caught a sneak peak of what teams should expect from Grainger right from the opening tip on Thursday as the Lady Grizz pressed, pressed and pressed some more.
Grainger caused three turnovers in the first three minutes of the game from their full-court press and consistently forced North Greene to speed up and make mistakes.
“I’m a firm believer that if you can’t play defense, you can’t play for me,” Bishop said. “We’re a little more up tempo this year because we are smaller, so I have to get over the fact that it’s going to be harder for us to hold teams to 40, but if we’ll score 70 and give up 50 we’ll be ok. Our pressure bothered them early.”
Maloney led the charge early for Grainger with a three and free throw to stake them out to the early 8-0 lead.
North Greene cut the lead to four by the end of the quarter, but a Rutherford free throw, Tanner basket, Hayes three and Rutherford basket built the lead to 11 and all but ended the game right there.
Grainger extended the lead to 16 before taking an 11-point lead into the break. Grainger never let off the pedal in the second half as Rutherford eight in the quarter and helped give the Lady Grizz a 16-point lead into the fourth.
From there, Bishop put in some younger players on his squad and Marly Tanner capped the game off with a bang, drilling a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Grainger will be back in action this weekend, taking on Dobyns-Bennett on the road on Saturday.
“We have Greeneville coming up December 4,” Bishop said. “Everything we do between now and then is getting us ready to play them. We play five games in six days, so it is going to be a whirlwind.”