RUTLEDGE – Grainger got off to a slow start against Cherokee in the first game of the Pizza Plus Thanksgiving Classic Friday morning, but they made sure that was not going to happen again when they played The Kings Academy later in the day.
The Lady Grizzlies rounded out the first period with seven straight points and started the second frame with seven more points in-a-row and that gave them the spark they needed to cruise to a 77-48 win over the Lady Lions. Grainger moves to 5-1 on the season while TKA slips to 3-2.
“It wasn’t a typical Grainger-type game we played this morning, especially on the defensive end but I knew we would bounce back,” Grainger head coach Rusty Bishop said of his team’s response against TKA after the slow start to the day. “We got a little rest in between games. TKA is a really, really good basketball team, and our girls knew that. They came out and played well and if we play this well in this gym the rest of the way, we will be pretty tough to beat.”
Lauren Longmire had the hot hand for the Lady Grizzlies as she netted 22 points. “It was obvious they hadn’t watched any film on us with the way they matched up and put one of their posts on Lauren,” Bishop stated. “They didn’t have anyone who could guard her, and that’s indicative of how many points she scored.” Bishop had high praise for another of this players with her performance against the Lady Lions. “I can’t say enough good things about the way Josie Harbin played. She played the game of her life with eight points and eight rebounds and was great on defense. Millie Hurst was great off the bench as well and got some big points for us at the end of the half so it was a total team effort.”
Grainger held a narrow 9-7 lead midway through the opening period but reeled off seven points in a row on baskets by Alia Maloney, Abbey Hodge and 3-pointer by Sydnie Hayes to go up 16-7 at the end of the first. Matty Tanner opened the second period with a long-range shot, Harbin hit two free throws and Longmire scored in transition to push Grainger’s run to 14-0. Longmire was unstoppable down low as she netted six points in a row at one point and the Lady Grizzlies finished out the first half on a high note when Hurst scored at the buzzer to send her team to the locker room with a 33-20 lead.
Things didn’t get any better in the third period for the Lady Lions as Grainger built a 46-25 lead on nine consecutive points by Longmire. TKA recovered just a bit late in the third as they netted eight points in a row at one point but they still were far behind as the fourth period began, trailing 49-33. The start of the final frame was much like the beginning of the third as the Lady Grizzlies out-scored TKA 11-1. Hodge drained a shot from downtown and Matty Tanner scored on a put-back to put Grainger up 67-39 with 3:21 to go.
That was when Bishop cleared the bench and took out his starters, but the reserves didn’t flinch as Maloney hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and hit the free toss to net a four-point play. Hurst rounded out the Grainger scoring with the final four points on the contest to put a cap on the 77-48 victory. Bailey Burgess led the Lady Lions with 21 points in the losing effort.
Grainger has a busy week ahead as they travel to Gatlinburg-Pittman, a team that made the sub-state last year and returns a lot of the starters from that squad, and then on to face Greeneville in the conference opener for both squads on Friday. “It doesn’t get any easier next week with two quality opponents so we will be ready to go,” Bishop said of the matchups against the Lady Highlanders and Lady Greene Devils.