RUTLEDGE — Grainger wasted no time clinching their ticket to the district and region semifinals on Saturday evening, taking down Cumberland Gap, 64-34, at The Den.
With the win, the Grizzlies move on to the District 2-AA semis on Monday night, taking on South Greene at 8:30 p.m. The win also clinched a birth in next week’s Region 1-AA Tournament.
“I thought we played pretty good,” Grainger coach Adam Wolfenbarger said. “We put ourselves in a good position. We did a good job with our effort and energy. We smothered them out on defense, changing back and forth a lot to not let them get comfortable.”
It was a balanced effort for the Grizzlies on the offensive side of the ball with eight players getting in on the scoring effort. Grainger was led in the game by Emmanuel Atkins, who came off the bench and had 23 points. Atkins has been a consistent sixth-man for the Grizzlies this season.
“Emmanuel was able to keep getting into the lane,” Wolfenbarger said. “With Emmanuel, it’s not about ability, it’s about decision making. When he makes really good decisions, Emmanuel is really tough.”
Along with Atkins, Luke Jones added 12 points while Brody Grubb had eight. Tristan Warfield and Trey Robinson both had six. Cumberland Gap was led by Jake Templin with eight as they saw their season end with the loss.
It was a quick start for Grainger as Warfield opened the game up with a 3-pointer, and Grainger broke out to an 11-2 lead. Warfield, Grubb and Atkins all hit 3-pointers in the quarter. Defensively, the effort was there as well, holding Cumberland Gap to four first quarter points.
In the second quarter, Grainger didn’t let up, scoring 24 points. Late in the quarter, Warfield, Robinson and Atkins hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 32-13 lead. Atkins had eight points in the quarter while Jones had six. Grainger led 38-17 at the half, going 6-10 from 3-point range.
“When we make shots, we’re hard to beat,” Wolfenbarger said. “I really believe we can win this thing, especially when we’re making shots. We came out and made a ton of shots. I think our guys believe we can win it, so I hope the shots keep falling.”
The third quarter was where Atkins began to completely dominate the game. He scored eight of the teams 15 points in the quarter as Grainger continued to build their lead. The Grizzlies held Cumberland Gap to 10 points in the quarter and had a 53-27 after three.
With the game comfortably in hand, Wolfenbarger was able to bring in his bench for the majority of the fourth quarter, allowing his starters a rest with back-to-back games coming up next week.
“It was good to be able to rest our guys,” Wolfenbarger said. “With that weather, we have to get all these games in quickly. I am looking forward to Monday and Tuesday though. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, having four games in one night. There will be a good buzz in the gym.”
Foster had five points in the fourth quarter while Atkins added four.
Grainger gets one day off before returning to the court against South Greene. In the regular season, South Greene swept both games between the two team. The Grizzlies are guaranteed another game on Tuesday, either in the consolation finals or the championship game.
“We have to carry this win over,” Wolfenbarger said. “We have been so inconsistent all year long with our effort and energy. When we have effort and energy, it leads to making shots. We have to have that moving forward.”