RUTLEDGE – There is an old adage in sports that “offense sells tickets but defense wins games.” The Grainger High School Grizzlies put that into practice in the first round of the regional tournament, especially the latter part of that saying.
Grainger turned in one of their best defensive efforts of the year Saturday, February 27. They totally stymied the Sullivan South High School Rebels in the opener of the region prevailing 64-47. Grainger was able to get some revenge against the team that ended their season in 2020.
The Grizzlies crashed the boards, stole the ball multiple times and generally just out-worked the Rebels. They held a team, who had been playing well as of late, to their lowest scoring total since South upset Elizabethton High School, 44-40, February 9.
The Grizzlies head coach Adam Wolfenbarger was thrilled with the way his team played defense against the Rebels.
“I thought our team defense as a whole tonight was really good. I use the term ‘smothering’ as South was having a hard time getting shots and making shots,” Wolfenbarger said.
For Grainger’s offense, Jaxon Williams exploded for 22 points and Emmanuel Atkins added 12 points to go along with his defensive hustle that was displayed throughout the contest. Ty Overbay scored 11 points for Grainger and Brody Grubb added 10 points.
The Grizzlies led 15-7 at the end of the opening period and they limited any good shot selections by South. When the second period began, Atkins took over the game and scored 10 of his 12 points in that time period. Williams got in on the action and hit back-to-back three-pointers to end the first half and send the home team to the locker room with a 37-20 lead.
Things did not change as the second half began and Tristan Warfield’s triple made it a 20-point game at 47-27. The Rebels found success from long-range late in the game and narrowed the lead to 13 at one point. Any hope of a Rebels’ rally was not realized as Williams and Overbay teamed up to score on consecutive possessions to add to the home team’s lead. Overbay and Atkins wrapped things up at the free throw line in the final minute to send the Grizzlies, who now move to 19-9 on the season, on to the second round of the region where they will face Sullivan East High School.
The good news for the Grainger Grizzlies is they advanced to the final of the district tournament Tuesday, February 23. The bad news was one of the best teams in the state was there waiting on them.
Grainger had the same problem all teams have had this year when facing third-ranked Greeneville High School in that they could not slow down the Greene Devils’ two best players. Both players can score from inside or outside and did just that and combined for 45 points. The Greene Devils downed the Grizzlies 67-35 in the finals.
Ty Overbay scored 10 points to lead Grainger. Brody Grubb netted nine points.