Morristown West drops game to Sevier County in IMAC battle

Ji Batts (2) of West goes up for a strong take against a Sevier County defender.

SEVIERVILLE – Morristown West knew that containing Sevier County’s Jonathan Zhao would be a necessity if they wanted to take down the Smoky Bears on the road.

If the Trojans had just been playing Zhao, they would have succeeded in pulling off the win, out-scoring him by six points. Unfortunately for the Trojans, Zhao had teammates.

Sevier County scored the first 10 points off the game and never let up, taking down Morristown West 59-33.

If you watch us practice, you would think we would be ready to play tonight,” Morristown West coach Johnathan Smith said. “We were able to work on a lot of things they run on offense in practice. I don’t know if it was no school or what but for some reason, this was not the same team we saw on Tuesday night against Morristown East.

I think our guys need to realize that we can’t get up for one game. It’s not feasible. We know what we should be doing, but then we come out here and don’t do what we practice. We have to find a way to response.”

Zhao, the Carson-Newman commit, has been a force in the IMAC all season so far and Friday night was no different. Zhao had 27 points, making six two’s, four three’s and going 3-of-5 from the free throw line.

Zhao provides a challenge for most teams on the offensive side of the ball, being a 6-feet-6-inch guard that can shoot, and Morristown West saw that firsthand.

He is an absolute assassin from outside,” Smith said. “He’s skilled at his position so that when you put a smaller guard on him, he can take them to the hoop. He does an excellent job of coming off screens. Credit to Coach Wright and what they do on the offensive end. They’re a well-oiled machine. He’s definitely a player.”

For Morristown West, it was a different look than Tuesday night when they came out strong on the offensive end. The Trojans looked lost at times trying to get through the Sevier County defense in the first quarter.

West managed just two free throws in the first quarter and didn’t hit a field goal until a Ryan Shafer three with 7:42 left in the second. For the Trojans, getting off to a quick start is a necessity.

I think the ball has to be moving more, it stuck a lot tonight,” Smith said. “When the ball was moving, we got in the gaps and created advantages for us. We were able to hit shots and drive and kick. We just weren’t able to do that tonight.”

The Trojans were led in the game by their two senior leaders, Ryan Shafer with 12 points and Ji Batts with nine points.

For Batts, he has been a bright spot on the offensive side of the ball the last couple games, showing the confidence to shoot the ball more so than at the start of the year.

It’s a confidence thing for him,” Smith said. “We’ve talked all season about how he is our guy and the motor for our team. When he’s going, everyone kind of follows around him. We’re going to continue to preach confidence moving forward.”

The Trojans will be back in action on Tuesday for another big district matchup against Jefferson County. For Smith, he wants to see his team take what they do in practice onto the game floor.

Against Jeff, it’ll be a rivalry game so the effort and energy will be there,” Smith said. “I would like to see us execute a defensive game plan. They have a lot of playmakers and so we’re going to have to find a way to guard them.”