RUTLEDGE – Is another 30-win season and trip to the TSSAA state tournament in the cards for the Grainger High School Lady Grizzlies? When looking at who they have returning for the 2020-21 season, there is reason to believe that will be the case.
Grainger is coming off their second consecutive trip to state and yet another campaign where they notched 30 victories. Head coach Rusty Bishop said the success his team has had the last two years means they will get everyone’s best shot when they play his team.
“We are not going to sneak up on anyone and we also aren’t going to hide from anyone either. I think if you look at our schedule in the first eight games, it’s a grueling stretch for us. To get better, you have to play good teams. Even though everyone is concerned about a win-loss record, I am more concerned with getting better and pushing us. Whether if we played a middle school team or a college team, we will always get everyone’s best shot, always have, always will,” Bishop said.
Bishop has a 62-11 overall record with Lady Grizzly basketball and said the foundation of success that has been cultivated for over a decade is something he wants his team to embrace and pass down to those coming behind them.
“We talked recently in a devotional about legacy and about the tradition of Grainger/Rutledge basketball, that is a pretty lasting legacy. All you have to look at are the banners in our gym. We do return the core of our players, and while we had four seniors last year that we will dearly miss in the post and will miss their leadership, we are now waiting on someone else to step in to fill that role,” Bishop said.
Senior guard Tori Rutherford will return for her fourth year in an attempt to pick up her third All-State accolade and Lauren Longmire will anchor the inside before she leaves to play collegiately at Milligan. Matty Tanner and Kolbi Walker are two more senior Lady Grizzlies who have a ton of playing experience and will factor into Grainger’s success.
“Our senior class is very talented. Tori and Lauren have already signed but Matty doesn’t take a back seat to anyone, she is very talented,” Bishop said of his seniors. “I see her signing somewhere before the season is over. We also have Kolbi Walker and that makes it easier as all of them have played significant minutes the last three years and they set the tone for us on a daily basis. They have been through the fire and have seen it all at this point.”
Five juniors will have chances to contribute this season. Bishop said he is counting on Audrey Stratton, Sydnie Hayes, Alia Maloney, Millie Hurst and Gracie Jarnigan to take bigger roles in 2020-21.
“We need them to move from being great role players to really making major contributions this year,” Bishop stated of his third-year players.
The challenges surrounding the coronavirus have created a lot of uncertainty as the season begins. Bishop said he has encouraged his team to enjoy the moment and adapt to any changes which may come their way.
“No one ever knows what the future holds at any time but I would say that is true even more so over the past several months. I have tried to stress the importance to this team to take care of what we can take care of today and let tomorrow handle itself. School has been crazy with virtual learning and other things but kids are resilient and adjust a lot better than we adults do. I think our kids have handled all this well. We just don’t want to take anything for granted. I lived through that last spring with softball; how it can be taken away at any minute,” Bishop said.
The Lady Grizzlies’ quest towards a return trip to Murfreesboro continues as they travel to North Greene High School Thursday, November 19.