Don’t count out the Rebels just yet

Maryville High senior Stian Romberg takes aim from the foul line during the Rebels win over Heritage last week at James Campbell Gymnasium.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville High senior Stian Romberg takes aim from the foul line during the Rebels win over Heritage last week at James Campbell Gymnasium.

Sophomore guard T.J. Kimble sets the table for the Rebels with 4.5 assists per game.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Sophomore guard T.J. Kimble sets the table for the Rebels with 4.5 assists per game.

Junior point guard Rebekah Singleton directs a Lady Rebel attack that is once again out front at the halfway point of the district race.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Junior point guard Rebekah Singleton directs a Lady Rebel attack that is once again out front at the halfway point of the district race.

Maryville High School’s boys’ basketball team may be a .500 team at the moment, but just wait.

Basketball is a postseason sport, and, come that point next month, the Rebels could be a very scary team.

A 87-57 defeat of Heritage last week lifted Maryville to a 7-7 mark on the year. There’s little comparison to the school’s 2007 state championship in terms of overall record at this point, but there are striking similarities in other respects.

The Rebels that shocked the state in defeating three ranked teams at that year’s state tournament had a lightening-quick, playmaking guard who could score in senior Jordan Damron. Sophomore T.J. Kimble currently fills that role, the All-Blount County guard averaging 11.1 points and 4.5 assists per game on blistering drives to the basket.

The ’07 Rebels had an equally strong presence around the basket in center and football tight end Aaron Douglas. Current senior Stian Romberg doesn’t have the heft Douglas afforded Maryville, but, at a legitimate 6-foot-6, his strength, athleticism and all-court scoring is proving a magnet for defense as he rounds into basketball shape.

The more he does the more 3-point marksmen Zach Stinnett (43 percent), freshman Isaac Edmiston (37) and Ryan Landers (31) are freed up to take aim from the perimeter — and they are not the only Rebels with that kind of range.

“Everyone can step out and shoot it,” Maryville coach Mark Eldridge said.

Stinnett is having a senior campaign of which Rebel fans might want to take notice.

“He’s improved so much since last year,” Eldridge said. “He understands what he brings to our team. In transition, you can tell T.J. knows where (Stinnett’s) at.”

With the District 4AAA race sure to heat up in coming weeks, Maryville has five players averaging double figure scoring. Romberg leads the way with 12.6 points per game, followed closely by Landers (11.5), Kimble, Edmiston (10.7) and Stinnett (10.0).

“Six or seven players can lead us in scoring,” Eldridge said.

As a team, the Rebels are burying 48 percent of their shots from the field.

“It’s a solid unit when you add it all together,” Eldridge said. “We still haven’t had our whole team practice together.”

It’s never a good idea to focus too much on what the Rebels are doing before Christmas. Players like guard Desmund Horne, forwards Patton Robinette and Logan Winders and Romberg are usually just finishing with football. It takes a while to get basketball fit. The way this team is pushing, it may not take as long to get there this year, Eldridge said.

“We can play slow or fast,” he said, “and a good team can play a slow game or a quick game. In practice, they work hard, and they do whatever we ask, and, when you do that, you’re going to get better.”

The Rebels are rebounding as a group, another statistic Eldridge finds encouraging. Four players — Romberg, Landers, Kimble and Edmiston — are averaging at least four caroms per game.

Just how quickly it can all come together will be sorely tested the next three weeks. Along with district contests with Farragut and Lenoir City to be made up because of snow, Maryville travels to District 4AAA power Knox West next week, with arch-rival Alcoa (8-2) visiting James Campbell Gymnasium next Thursday. A visit to co-district leader Bearden looms the first week of February.

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