Grainger holds off Greeneville for the win

RUTLEDGE – Last week was a productive one for the Grainger High School Lady Grizzlies. They were ranked seventh in the first statewide basketball poll released Monday, January 10. Head coach Rusty Bishop earned his 500th overall career coaching win against Claiborne High School with a 53-33 victory Tuesday, January 11, and then the Lady Grizzlies took out second-ranked Greeneville High School Friday, January 14.

The Claiborne win was Bishop’s 500th overall win as head coach in several sports at several schools. Bishop served as the co-head baseball coach at Rutledge where he went 138-66. He was 251-171 as the softball coach at Grainger and is currently 111-19 as the girls’ basketball coach for the Lady Grizzlies. 

Alia Maloney led the offensive effort, scoring 20 points against the Claiborne Lady Bulldogs. Maddie Hurst added 10 points for Grainger. 

The highlight of the season so far for the Lady Grizzlies was a big 55-49 win over Greeneville to stay perfect in district play. Maddie Hurst led with 15 points with Alia Maloney close behind at 14 points. Sydnie Hayes added 10 points. Grainger is now 15-4 overall, 3-0 in the league. 

Both teams showed why defense is so important to their success as the score was 6-5 at the end of the first period. Maddie Hurst scored four straight points to open the second quarter and set the tone as the Lady Grizzlies finally found their offensive grind. Grainger eventually built a 27-16 lead at the half.

Greeneville used a 12-0 spurt to take the lead in the third period. Grainger had trouble doing anything against the Lady Greene Devils’ trapping defense. After gaining all the momentum in the third and claiming a 38-36 lead, the stage was set for an epic fourth period. 

An 11-2 Grainger outburst gave the home team the lead and they would never lose it again. Greeneville was able to narrow the gap to a single basket but Audrey Stratton squashed any hope of a full Lady Devils’ comeback. She got the ball on the inbound pass, went the length of the floor and scored on an easy layup. Maloney scored four in a row and the Lady Grizzlies held on for the win over their biggest rival.

“Their full-court press, I felt like we handled it times but not at other times as they really turned it up late in the third period,” Bishop said. “I told our team that we would get their best shot the first three minutes of the third but it happened to be the last three minutes as we gave up a double-digit lead. We responded in the fourth and at the end of the day, this was a good win.”

The Den was rocking for the game, a testimony to the passionate fan base who support both Grainger and Greeneville, two of the best girls’ teams in the state. 

Bishop reflected on the electric feeling inside the gym. “There is one reason I love this place and anyone who was here tonight will know why. This place is special as our people showed up and showed out like they always do. I had absolutely no doubt that would happen. What’s better than playing in front of your hometown in front of hundreds of screaming fans and beating Greeneville?” 

The Lady Grizzlies hit the road for two games this week when they play at Cherokee High School and will face traditional nemesis South Greene High School.