It wasn’t as if one or two players took the floor for Alcoa last Thursday night and simply blew up Maryville.
In fact, offense really wasn’t the story at all.
The Tornadoes’ 73-55 rout of the Rebels in the first of two meetings between the heated rivals this season was done with defense. No zones. No traps. Just sticky, old-fashioned, man-on-man.
“We really didn’t concentrate on any specific player,” Alcoa coach Micah Marsh said.
A game tied at 14-14 after a quarter, with Alcoa up only 28-21 at the half, stunned many in attendance, Marsh included, as the Tornadoes tore clear to lead by 20 after three quarters at Maryville’s James Campbell Gymnasium. The Rebels trailed by eight after a Stian Romberg layup with 4:25 to play in the third. A Tre Tate 3-pointer five seconds later put the advantage for Alcoa (11-5) in double figures.
Closing out hard on Maryville shooters on the perimeter, doubling in the post, the Tornadoes proceeded to hold the Rebels (10-11) scoreless for the next three minutes, by which time the lead was 18. With Maryville managing only field goals from sophomore T.J. Kimble and Romberg the first three minutes of the fourth, the Tornadoes were on cruise the rest of the way.
“In the third quarter we really locked down on defense and got some good stops,” Marsh said.
There was no one player that stood out for the Tornadoes defensively. It was all of them.
Point guard Tre Tate made his Rebel counterpart, Kimble, work for every open look, and they’re weren’t many of them. Sophomore Kenny Dean and senior Steven Isom used their length defensively to harass Maryville’s 3-point shooters into thinking pass first.
When they did, looking primarily for Romberg underneath, Tornado big man Matt Shown blocked enough shots and collected enough rebounds to leave the Rebels with few options. By the three-minute mark of the fourth, Alcoa was subbing out the starters.
“We’ve got a pretty good mix,” Marsh said. “We’ve got a good point guard, and we’ve to two long guards. I thought Tre was pretty good at breaking them down and getting in the paint.”
Dean paced Alcoa offensively with 16 points, with Tate and Shown finishing with 14 each. Romberg led the Rebels with 13, with freshman Isaac Edmiston adding 12.
It was just the showing the Tornadoes needed after back-to-back losses to Christian Academy of Knoxville and Gatlinburg-Pittman prior to the bus ride across town to visit the Rebels. Alcoa hosts the Warriors in a huge District 4AA rematch Thursday night. A finishing league run includes out-of-district clashes with William Blount’s Governors and a visit from the Rebels on Feb. 11 to close out the regular season.