Second wind

Alcoa spinning up to speed after break

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

For the second time in less than a week, Alcoa had one of the state’s giants on the ropes. As did Fulton on Friday, Class AAA top-ranked Greeneville would slip away in the closing minutes.

The Tornadoes led the Greene Devils and 6-foot-7 prospect Antwaine Wiggins by one at the half, only to succumb, 50-41, Tuesday night in Greeneville. Losing to the Greene Devils (22-1) brings with it no shame. Neither did Friday’s 61-57 loss at Class AA No. 7-ranked Fulton.

Sandwiched around a 51-48 win at Maryville on Saturday, it’s simply frustrating, Alcoa coach Micah Marsh said.
"We just didn’t play well (in either loss)," he said.

Marsh has good reason to hope for better from the Tornadoes. Anderson County knocked off Alcoa, 75-67, back in December, but that was with much of the roster just back from helping the school’s football team to its third consecutive state title.

Footballers Kyrus Lanxter, Randall Cobb, Brian Sommer and Sam Thompson were up to basketball speed for the rematch a week ago. With full-time hardwood hero Justin Ridenour setting the tempo, the Tornadoes avenged the pre-Christmas loss to the Mavericks with an 86-57 blowout at Alcoa.

The Tornadoes are by necessity a team whose true strength can never be known until January. Basketball coaches sharing athletes with their gridiron counterparts is a fact of life at a school with an enrollment of less than 400.

The basketball Tornadoes were 2-5 prior to the Christmas break. A 3-1 run at the Paintsville (Ky.) Classic over the holidays signaled a different would be returning when play resumed in January, Marsh said.

"We’re not the team we were before," he said. "The kids are starting to know the things we need to do to win."

The Falcons (16-1, 4-0) set atop the heap in District 3AA, and, for much of Friday, the Tornadoes (8-8, 1-2) looked ready to join the league race in earnest. With Lanxter scoring Alcoa’s first 10 points, en route to his second consecutive 24-point night, the Tornadoes were close throughout, leading for the last time, 57-56, on a Lanxter bucket in the lane with 48 seconds left.

"Records don’t mean anything when we play each other," Marsh said. "We usually play one of our best games, and they play their best game. I thought we had our chances to win, and that’s upsetting."

Lanxter would collect his fifth foul shortly after the go-ahead basket, with Fulton going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 31 seconds. The Falcons would collect only three field goals in the closing half, holding to their advantage with 24-of-28 shooting from the charity stripe. Fulton would make 34 trips to the line for the game, the Tornadoes 11.

A tough four-game stretch for the Tornadoes concludes when 3AA heavy Austin-East comes calling on Friday. The Roadrunners took the December clash, 71-57, in Knoxville.

"We said after Christmas we’re going to have it rough," Marsh said, "but it can only make us better. I think we are starting
to realize we’ve got to play well defensively to win."

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