New year, same Grizz: Grainger blows out  South Greene

GREENEVILLE – No team has given the Grainger Lady Grizzlies more fits over the last several years than South Greene. Grainger made sure that was not going to happen again to begin 2021.

The two teams played on Rebel Hill on New Year’s Day as a makeup of a game that was postponed earlier in the season due to positive virus discoveries in the Lady Grizzlies’ program. With the way the game started, it looked as if it was going to be another tough game for Grainger as South Greene scored the first seven points of the opening period. But after that, it was all Grainger as the visitors from Rutledge outscored the Lady Rebels 29-10 the rest of the first half and cruised to a 62-34 victory.

“South Greene didn’t shoot it tonight like they usually do in this building,” Grainger head coach Rusty Bishop said after the game. “Our advantage was we had played three games this week and South Greene only had three practices prior to playing us (because of Covid-19 quarantine restrictions) so we had a leg up there. But it sure didn’t look like it the first three minutes of the game. We had four or five possessions we didn’t even get a shot off. We battled back though and played hard and anytime you come to this place and win, that is a good thing.”

At one time, the Lady Rebels held a six-game winning streak over Grainger but the tables have now turned as the Lady Grizzlies have won four straight in the series. Grainger maintains their place atop the district standings as they are undefeated in league play and move to 12-2 on the season overall.

The Lady Rebels jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game and when Bishop called a timeout to calm his team down, he used a loss earlier in the week as motivation to right the ship. “We turned up the defensive pressure and I think that was because we had watched some film from the loss to Oakland. We got our feelings hurt about things we needed to improve on. You can’t cure all the problems in one day but we made some progress, especially on the boards. South Greene hurt us on the offensive glass and we finally figured out a way to keep them from getting second-chance points which turned things around.”

Grainger scored the final 10 points of the first period and held South Greene scoreless for a four and half minute span to go up 12-11 at the end of one. The game was close to start the second period until Audrey Stratton nailed a 3-pointer at the 3:21 mark and that seemed to spark the Lady Grizzlies as they pulled away for a 29-17 lead at the half on a shot from downtown by Lauren Longmire. Longmire started the second half with a basket and there was little doubt that Grainger had all the momentum and the Lady Rebels had no chance of mounting a comeback. Tori Rutherford scored nine points in the third and the defense held South Greene scoreless for over four minutes once again as the lead ballooned to 43-26 going to the fourth.

Even with a big lead, the Lady Grizzlies didn’t let up and started the fourth period off on an 11-0 scoring binge that pushed the lead to 28 points. With such a commanding lead, Bishop went to the bench but the younger players didn’t let up on the intensity. Taylee Rutherford had a steal and layup on consecutive possessions and Suzanne Barker’s basket made it a 30-point game. A basket at the buzzer by the Lady Rebels got the lead back under 30 and produced the 62-34 final. “We had some younger kids who have really, really improved, especially our sophomore class. We are so upperclassmen-heavy, it’s hard to get those younger kids some time on varsity but they improved greatly and it showed up tonight,” Bishop said of his bench production.

Longmire led Grainger with 17 points, Rutherford had 11 and Matty Tanner finished with eight. Jayden Merriweather led South Greene with 11 points, eight of which came in the first half.

Grainger will be back in The Den on Monday night as they host fellow Lakeway area foe Cocke County.