WHITWELL, Tenn.–Don’t poke a Yellow Jacket’s nest, even if it’s on your home turf.
Whitwell couldn’t pull out a win against Double-A Grundy County Wednesday night in a doubleheader nightcap at their Christmas Tournament. The Yellow Jackets took down the Tigers 55-46 while the Lady Jackets rolled with a 49-41 victory.
Both teams play Thursday evening in the second round of the winner’s bracket.
Lady Jackets Break Past Whitwell Late
It only took a half for the Lady Jackets to shake their rust off against Whitwell.
In fact, the Tigers had Grundy County on the ropes early and had the crowd believing they would pick up the homecourt win. As the night went on, Grundy County head coach John Shedd had his team rolling over a younger Whitwell squad.
“We quit forcing stuff to be honest,” Shedd said. “We started playing our game in the second quarter and came out in the third quarter and stretched it out a little bit. We have to adjust a little bit, but we have to play our way. If we do that, then we’ll be alright.”
The Lady Yellow Jackets picked up their game in the second half, widening the margin as they went. It wasn’t until late that the Tigers were able to mount of a small comeback that was iced by free throws late.
“I think Kierra Hobbs really stepped up in the post,” Shedd said. “She had six points. That’s big when you can get something going down in there. If we could just get here to be consistent and let the other folks get in the system, I think we’ll be pretty tough to beat.”
For both squads, the tournament was a chance to play quality opponents with a fraction of the travelling.
“The biggest thing, for us, is that we played a bigger school,” Lady Tigers head coach Eric Zensen said. “I told the girls in the locker room that this is a game that’s going to help us get better and get ready for our district. This tournament is a good fundraiser and a good way for us to get for our competition.”
For the Jackets, the same factors are in play, but they may not kick in until Thursday.
“Heritage will be a good test,” Shedd said. “Teams like that help me get ready for the district. Our schedule has been ridiculous. Our first four home games have been AAA schools. People keep saying it’s too hard. That’s why we’re 2-0 in district. We play better teams, tougher teams.”
And the Lady Jackets’ fate against Heritage will be determined at 6:00 PM on Thursday night on the same court they downed the hosts.
Jackets Mount Huge Comeback as New Coaches Tango
It’s not often you see a 20-point swing in just over a quarter of play, but that’s just what Grundy County did against the Tigers in their 55-46 victory Wednesday night
To come back though, you have to be behind. The Tigers picked up an early lead on the Yellow Jackets and seemingly never looked back.
“We were moving that ball at that point,” Tigers head coach Bruce Slatton said. “We were trying not to stay in one spot too long. We really just found the open guy when we needed to.”
The Yellow Jackets couldn’t find a way to stop the Tiger offense, but midway through the first half a pattern started to emerge.
“We dug a hoe right from the get-go,” Grundy County head coach Kevin Butner said. “We were out two starters, so the guys out on the court really had to find their groove. I also found a defense to adjust. I really didn’t scout them much, but I tried to find their weakness in the first quarter. That switch was mostly finding things to adjust there in the first half.”
For Butner he picks on the third win on the season, but without two starters, it’s a win well-needed.
“That’s a tough transition,” Butner said. “Going from two starters and learning how to win without them is tough. We learned how to finish, so we’ve got a young group of guys , and that was impressive for them. We probably put nine different players on the court tonight.”
The youth also played a factor in the tournament ebbs and flows.
“I think the kids were really glad to be back from the break,” Butner said. “We do a lot of things different. I make them show up early, before the bus gets here. Probably like two hours just to get them mentally prepared.”
The Yellow Jackets will play in another nightcap 7:30 PM Thursday with Heritage (GA).