Whitwell splits a pair of games with visiting Grundy County on the hardwood

Whitwell, Tenn. – The Whitwell Tigers basketball programs made their home hardwood debuts recently and came away with a mixed result taking on the Grundy County High School teams. The Lady Tigers overcame a third-quarter siesta to emerge victorious over the Lady Yellow Jackets 55-41. However, the men’s team had a more difficult obstacle to overcome and ultimately lost to the Yellow Jackets 79-38. Early season games are as much a classroom as a bellwether for the season, but coaches hate seeing mental errors in the first games as much as they do in the playoffs.

WHS’s Courtney Zensen finds room in the corner after chasing a rebound to put up the three.

Things were smooth through the first half for the Lady Tigers, as the team could carry a 33-17 lead into the break. However, the Lady Jackets came out of the break inspired and rattled off seven unanswered points to start the third quarter. WHS Head Coach Eric

WHS’ Ella Grace Harvey prepares for one of her free throws in the fourth quarter.

Zensen opted to take a break within two minutes of the start of the second half to regroup and dictate some missed opportunities. Unfortunately, the Lady Tigers saw their lead nearly erased throughout the third quarter as the Lady Yellow Jackets came within three by the end of the third quarter, with the Lady Tiger grasping on to a 36-33 lead going into the fourth quarter. However, within the first forty seconds of the fourth, the Lady Tigers would see that lead completely eroded when a three-pointer from Grundy’s Carlee Smartt tied the game at 36-36.

The Lady Tigers seemed to transition into an interior shot selection strategy, hoping to attract the contact and, even if they couldn’t get the initial shot, get a look at the free throw line. The plan had merit, as the Lady Tigers gleaned 10 out of 19 points from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Lady Tiger Senior Courtney Zensen, who recently signed with Union University, dropped seven of her games worth 22 points in the fourth quarter, two of which were from the free-throw line in the fourth. Adrianna Elledge seemed to deliver when Whitwell needed her to go three-for-four at the free-throw line and drop a three-pointer early to help establish the halftime lead. WHS’s Ella Grace Harvey came through big in the fourth quarter, executing the free throw strategy well, going four-for-four from the line and accounting for four of her ten points for the game. Addie Colvard dropped thirteen points, including a three-for-four free throw line exhibition in the fourth. Those performances, with Mallory O’Neil’s early contribution, led to the Lady Tigers’ 55-41 final win for the game.

The men’s game followed a different template for the hosting Tigers. Neither the Tigers nor the Yellow Jackets got off to an explosive start. Halfway through the first quarter, the visitors held a 7-3 lead. Then the Yellow Jackets found a foothold on offense and ripped six unanswered points over the next minute and a half to open the divide to a far more troublesome 13-3 lead over the Tigers. Unfortunately, the Yellow Jackets weren’t done as they unloaded another thirteen points before the end of the first quarter and only allowed a single free-throw by the Tigers to hold a 26-4 lead. The Tigers could not stop the bleeding as the Yellow Jackets opened the second quarter, playing lights-out defense on the Tigers and tallying another 16 points

Ben Minter fires a pass to Bubba Smith against the Grundy County Yellow Jackets.

to take a 41-4 lead with just 3 minutes left in the half. Finally, WHS’s Ben Minter broke the silence on the scoreboard for the Tigers with a much-needed emotional boosting three-pointer. The Tigers added one more free throw before the half and, more importantly, slowed down the Yellow Jacket offensive juggernaut and only allowed five more points in the half, taking the midway break still trailing 46-8.

The Tigers were undoubtedly aware that point guard Ben Minter had three fouls in the first half and would arguably have to play conservative ball for the second half. However, the teams came out of the half looking like fairly evenly matched opponents early in the third. In the first three minutes, Whitwell

Ryan Levan goes up for the layup in the Tigers’ games against GCHS.

outscored the Yellow Jackets seven to four, trying to dig out of the sizable deficit they were in. The Tigers would even rally through the end of the quarter to end up outscoring the Yellow Jackets 18 to 12 for the third quarter with a respectable effort to bridge the gap. Going into the fourth quarter trailing 56-26, the Tigers attempted to sustain more two-for-one possessions against the Yellow Jackets, but it was not in the cards. Grundy took control of the game’s narrative, outscoring the Tigers eight to two in the first three minutes of the final quarter. That momentum for the Yellow Jackets would more than sustain throughout the fourth quarter, landing at a 79-36 victory for Grundy County.

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