A smaller schedule is on tap this week as schools dismiss to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Clinton Middle School’s Hawks travel to Union Grove on Nov. 30, while Lake City hosts Oakdale on Nov. 30 and Wartburg on Dec. 1.
Norris also hosts a game Nov. 30 against Jacksboro. Norwood also hosts Wartburg this week on Nov. 30.
Clinton High School hosts Gatlinburg Pittman this Saturday at 7 p.m. for its first home game, followed by another home game Dec. 1 against Karns.
The Dragons beat Karns twice last season, both times by narrow margins, winning the first encounter 71-68 and the second 58-57.
Clinton Coach Chris Lockard said he’s excited for Gatlinburg-Pittman, but that the team is expecting a hard game.
“We play Gatlinburg Pittman here on Saturday and they’re probably the best team in 3AA,” he said. “They’re locked and loaded and ready for a run. There really is nobody easy on our schedule this year.
“After that, we’re into our district play and the only non-league teams after that are Fulton and Science Hill. Gatlinburg Pittman is going to be tough, but again, hopefully, the tougher non-league games are going to prepare us for our district games. This young group is going to have to be physically and mentally tough if they want to be in the hunt to win the district because it’s going to be a hard road for them.”
Regarding Karns, Lockard said they leaned heavily on their seniors last year, and, without them, it’s going to be a hard-fought win if they get it.
“I’m going off of last year, the guys that Karns had returning this year were their main key guys. They lost the one big guy but they had another one come in that’s about 6’8”. They got size, speed, and guys that can shoot the ball. Any year you can split with Karns is a good year. Last year we were able to win both mainly because our seniors were able to handle the pressure over at Karns.
This young team has a lot of new battles for them. How do you handle the pressure of playing on the road? There’s a lot of small factors that go into a team being able to win ballgames. We obviously have kids that can shoot it and defend, but they’re still learning. Really all these guys played plenty of minutes last year, but it’s different when you’re out there and you’re the only one. I’m really pleased and excited up to this point and they surprise me every day. They work hard. I’m trying to bring them along the best I can as quick as I can.”
Anderson County, meanwhile, hosts Central on Dec. 1 in a game between two programs that are much older and more competitive this year. Anderson County lost both games against Central last year, barely losing the first game 49-51 and losing the second one 42-58.
Derek Wallace, the head coach of the Mavericks, said he’s feeling good going into it.
“We both have a lot of kids back and I think they’ve already spent ten days quarantined. We lost a player this week that won’t be back for that game, but that’s the nature of this season. Just getting to play and play a team that’s competitive is something to be excited about.”
Wallace said the team’s loss to Fulton this past Saturday has certainly helped them prepare, as well as show them how far they have to go.
“That was a game we needed to play before going into a game like this. We ended up getting beat but had a shot at the buzzer to tie it up. It let us know that we’ve got a long way to go. You play a team that goes to the state tournament every year and you find out a lot about yourself. They’re probably one of the best defensive teams in the East TN year in, year out, and they made us really work to get buckets. You can’t practice that way, you just have to see it to understand it. We definitely needed it.”
Specifically against Central, though, Wallace said they’re going to have to really pressure the guard if they want to stand a chance.
“Central is a lot like Clinton, where they both have an elite guard that can shoot it from anywhere and score in a bunch of different ways. Central brings something different from most teams in our league: they’re elite rebounders and we have to keep them off the glass and limit their second chances from that. We’re going to have to really harass their guard, Greg Moore, and if we do that, we’ll have a shot. If we don’t keep them off the glass and Moore gets easy looks, it’s going to be a long night for us.”