Photo by Elmer Smith
Grainger Today Correspondent
WHITE PINE – A career game from Brody Grubb sparked the Rutledge Middle School Pioneer basketball team to a hard-fought victory over East Ridge Middle School in the Middle Eight Conference tournament championship. In the game played last Tuesday night at White Pine Middle School, Grubb scored 32 points, pulled down seven rebounds and had five assists. East Ridge’s offense was hot at the start of the game as the Bears knocked down a trio of treys and a deuce to take a 14-6 lead. The Pioneers earned single baskets from Tristan Warfield, Grubb and Sawyer Stout. A pair of 3-pointers by Grubb and a basket by Sawyer Stout left the Pioneers trailing 19-14 after the first seven minutes of play. “They (East Ridge) came out hot,” said Rutledge coach Todd Day. “We changed defenses on them, got stops and had a good run of our own to get the lead.”
Those defensive changes worked well. After the Bears opened the second quarter with a bucket, the Pioneers responded with a huge trey from Hunter McBee. That was followed by a pair of treys from Grubb and a trey from seventh-grader Emmanuel Atkins which gave Rutledge its first lead of the game, 26-25, with 3:03 remaining in the half. That was followed by baskets from Atkins and Sawyer and another important three from McBee. Grubb then added a pair of free throws as Rutledge took a 35-29 lead at the half.
A deuce and a trey by Grubb opened the second half and pushed the Pioneer lead to 40-31 before a seven-point run by East Ridge cut the Grainger lead to 40-38. Another big trey by Grubb gave Rutledge a little breathing room with the score standing at 43-38. Although Stout connected on a pair of buckets, the Bears, who outscored Rutledge by 13 points in the third stanza, took a 48-47 lead into the final quarter.
Rutledge had a hot start to the fourth quarter with two baskets by Atkins, one by Logan Foster and one by Wakefield to push the Pioneer lead to 55-48 with five minutes remaining in the game.
After the Bears responded with a pair of baskets, the Pioneers countered with baskets from Grubb and Stout for a 59-54 advantage. After an East Ridge trey cut the Rutledge advantage to 59-57 with two minutes left in the game, the Pioneers responded with a pressure-packed trey and free throw from Grubb and two free throws from Warfield, which gave Rutledge a 65-59 lead. A basket by the Bears was countered by two free throws from Grubb and a free throw from Atkins. The game and the championship trophy went to the Pioneers with a 68-61 win.
Brody Grubb, with 32 points, led the Pioneers, who got 12 points from Sawyer Stout, 10 from Emmanuel Atkins, seven from Tristan Warfield and six from Hunter McBee.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Coach Day of the tournament championship. “We’ve had people stepping up all season, and they did that tonight. Brody played his best all-around game tonight. He knocked down threes and played big at the end. Sawyer is our second leading scorer, and he got big shots and points off rebounds. Hunter McBee did an outstanding job on defense. We always put him on the other team’s best guard. In the tournament, he held the other team’s best guards to three, four and three points, and that was a huge part of our success. Emmanuel has really picked it up since Christmas. He stepped up big tonight and had some big baskets. I’m glad I’ll have him back next year. I’m proud of how hard the boys worked all year. They deserved this championship.”