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RUTLEDGE – Jaxon Williams couldn’t miss to begin Tuesday’s basketball game against Cumberland Gap. The junior guard scored 12 points from downtown in the first half and led the Grizzlies with 18 total points as they downed the Panthers 67-60 at The Den.

The game was close in the first half until the Grizzlies were able to put some distance between themselves and the Panthers to close out the third period and open the fourth. Grainger held a 16-point lead in the final frame but the Panthers kept battling before ultimately falling by seven. Grainger head coach Adam Wolfenbarger gave a lot of credit to his counterpart from Cumberland Gap. “Coach (Ryan) Whitaker was trying to get his guys going since they have only played four or five games this year. That bunch is playing hard and I knew it was going to be scrappy, I just kept urging my guys to grind it and grind it and grind it because I felt like that was the way it was going to go. The pace was in Cumberland Gap’s favor early but we got to running the floor in the third period and I think that might have been because they didn’t have a lot of legs and we tried to get the tempo up. We just didn’t do a very good job of coming out of a timeout up 16 points with a killer instinct. Credit to Cumberland Gap for hanging around.”

Williams stared the game with a triple and then ended the opening period with two more as Grainger led 12-9. It looked like the Grizzlies were primed to get out far ahead of the Panthers when they were assessed a technical foul after a regular shooting foul and Tristan Warfield hit all four free throws and then Logan Foster scored on what turned out to be a six-point possession. The home team was up 21-12 after that series of events but Cumberland Gap flipped the script and scored eight unanswered to climb back into it. They only trailed the Grizzlies 32-26 at the half.

The third period was a see-saw affair until Ty Overbay made his presence known by scoring four points in a row to round out the third and give Grainger a 46-39 lead. “Ty off the bench helped turn the game in the third quarter, not just with those four points on layups but defensively, I felt like he changed the tempo in the game,” Wolfenbarger said. Williams opened the fourth with another three and that was part of an 11-2 run that put Grainger up 57-41 when Brody Grubb scored on an easy layup. Once again however, the Panthers bowed up and made a run at the Grizzlies by hitting some three’s and getting to the free throw line. The comeback took a toll on Cumberland Gap as they couldn’t close the deficit all the way and Grainger prevailed 67-60.

In addition to Williams’ 18 points, Grubb and Logan Foster scored 15 points each for the Grizzlies. “I can’t say enough about how good of a game Logan had. In the fourth quarter, he scores eight points and finished with 15 total. He is a big, strong guy in there and he had his way tonight,” Wolfenbarger said. Additionally, the Grainger skipper was impressed with the play of Drew Branson who came off the bench to give his team seven points to go along with key rebounds and assists. “Drew is a player. He is playing a lot for us on JV and is spotting in on the varsity depending on what his role will be that night. Drew is coming on,” Wolfenbarger said.

Jake Templin had a solid game and led all scorers with 22 points fir Cumberland Gap. Jaden Schertz added 19 for the Panthers.

The Grizzlies have now won seven games in a row and stand at 8-5 overall and remain in second place in the conference standings at 5-1. They will be idle until Jan. 19 when they host Cosby.