It starts to get serious for Blount County’s high school basketball teams this week.
Alcoa and Maryville meet for the first time this season on Thursday at Maryville’s James Campbell Gymnasium. While the outcome has no postseason implications, the girls and boys teams from both schools could both use a win to kick off a strong stretch run.
The Tornadoes opened the season an unbeaten 7-0 before a midseason stall. Back-to-back losses to District 4AA rival Christian Academy of Knoxville and region foe Gatlinburg-Pittman last week, followed by a Tornado trouncing of Kingston on Tuesday, has Alcoa at 9-5, 1-1 in district play entering tonight’s showdown.
The Rebels (8-9, 4-4) have had an even rougher go of it the first couple of months of the season. A slow start had Maryville under .500 at Christmas, and, with Tuesday’s loss at District 4AAA power Knox West, the Rebels are still here, welcoming the Tornadoes to their gym badly in need of a win before the schedule turns decidedly fierce.
Maryville returns to district play hosting William Blount on Friday.
A balanced attack of guards Tre Tate and Gabe Dando, forward Kenny Dean and center Matt Shown affords Alcoa the firepower to leave Maryville with a win tonight, providing Rebel senior Stian Romberg doesn’t go off for another big night. The Maryville forward lit up Farragut for 22 points Saturday night. With super-quick point guard T.J. Kimble and 3-point sharpshooter Zach Stinnett also at the ready, the Rebels, record withstanding, are both a versatile and dangerous team.
The Lady Tornadoes and Lady Rebels enter in somewhat similar circumstances. Like their Tornado counterparts, the Lady Tornadoes also dropped games at Christian Academy and Gatlinburg-Pittman last week, following with a win over the Yellow Jackets. The Lady Rebels, last season’s district champions, have suffered losses to Farragut and West in a hotly-contested league battle in recent days. The Lady Rebels have a noticeable size advantage in senior and reigning district player of the year Torie Vaught at one forward, junior Miranda Maples at the other. Junior point guard Rebekah Singleton is one of the district’s most undervalued players.
In countering, the Lady Tornadoes have a bevy of shooters that helped them tear off to a fast start. Alischa Shiverdecker, Katie Stubblefield, Elly Loy, Kylie Russell and Kayla Newman can all shoot it for Alcoa. It remains to be seen how the Lady Tornadoes will negate Maryville’s height advantage.
With a little over two weeks remaining in the regular season, Heritage opens the stretch run with a visit to Lenoir City on Friday, with district heavyweight Bearden waiting around the corner early next week. After Friday’s visit to Maryville, William Blount travels to Farragut for a pair of pivotal games early next week.