RUTLEDGE – Any team, anytime, anywhere.
That has always been Grainger High School head coach Rusty Bishops’ philosophy when it comes to scheduling. He is not afraid to go out and play tough teams and that is apparent in this year’s schedule. The Lady Grizzlies have faced Stone Memorial, Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and North Greene, all teams who will contend for a trip to the TSSAA state tournament.
The Lady Grizzlies’ biggest test of the season came when top-ranked Bearden rolled into The Den for a match-up against 5th-ranked Grainger Saturday, February 13. Bearden is the 19th 3-A school Bishop’s team has faced in his three years as head coach, and while they played well early, Grainger fell to the Lady Dawgs 52-37.
Grainger, who is now 14-5 versus 3-A teams the last three years, actually jumped out to the lead in the first period, posting a 17-14 advantage. Then came the second period when Bearden took advantage of their length and out-scored the Lady Grizzlies 9-2. Grainger kept the game close. They only trailed 36-29 at the end of the third period and got to within seven points in the fourth, but the Lady Dawgs had enough to pull away for the win and improve to 23-1 on the season. Lauren Longmire led Grainger with 12 points.
The Lady Grizzlies stand at 26-3 overall, and after a game against Cosby to conclude the regular season, will begin the conference tournament as the top seed later this week. As long as they keep winning, the Lady Grizzlies will be at home until the finals of the regional tournament, which will take place in the Tri-Cities region later in the month.
Grainger vs. Cocke County
Grainger traveled to face the Lady Red Thursday, February 11. Cocke County gave Grainger fits all night long but in the end, the Lady Grizzlies had just enough in the tank to hang on for a 54-46 win.
Lauren Longmire paced Grainger with 12 points and Matty Tanner added 11 points. Grainger trailed at the end of the first period for the first time in a long time but chipped away to tie the game 23-23 at the half. The Lady Grizzlies scored the final nine points of the third period to get some cushion against the Lady Red. That continued on into the final frame as Grainger put together an 18-2 run at one point. Cocke County made inroads toward a comeback but ultimately fell short.
Grainger vs. Cumberland Gap
The last time the Lady Grizzlies took on Cumberland Gap High School, the Lady Panthers hung around with Grainger. In the rematch played Tuesday, February 9, that was not the case. Alia Maloney scored 18 points to lead the Lady Grizzlies to an easy 73-45 win over the host team. Grainger concluded their conference record with an unblemished mark at 12-0. Tori Rutherford scored 15 points and Lauren Longmire added 12 points for the victorious Lady Grizzlies.
Grainger opened the game with nine straight points and ended the half with 10 points in a row to take a 36-13 lead at the half and they never looked back from there. Cumberland Gap is a team Grainger will most likely see again in the first round of the upcoming district tournament.
South Greene and Chuckey-Doak
The Lady Grizzlies went 2-0 in a rare same-day doubleheader played Monday, February 8 at home. They pounded both teams they faced from Greene County, downing South Greene, 70-32, and then Chuckey Doak, 67-17, in the final game of the day.
Grainger, who played a doubleheader last season (a loss to Farragut and a win against Meigs County), had little trouble in either game this year. Even though the Lady Rebels scored the first seven points of the game, they only netted 25 the rest of the way and the Lady Grizzlies completely overwhelmed them. Lauren Longmire led the Lady Grizzlies with 14 points. Matty Tanner finished with 13 points, Tori Rutherford added 12 and Audrey Stratton had 10 points.
A 25-0 start in the first period set the tone for the rest of the contest against Chuckey-Doak as the Lady Grizzles blitzed the Lady Knights. Scoring nine points each were Tanner, Longmire and Maddie Hurst. All 15 Lady Grizzlies saw action in the nightcap.