The Clinton Dragons opened the basketball season with a 60-52 loss at McMinn County last Tuesday.
“They [McMinn County] have a good team and they shoot the ball really well,” said Chris Lockard, head coach of the Dragons.
“Honestly, we were just out of sync,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a little bit of first game nerves. These boys know they’re under the gun a little bit and expected to do really well. We just didn’t play the way we play. I don’t want to take anything away from McMinn County, they had a lot to do with that.”
The Dragons trailed 14-12 after one quarter of play and 34-30 at the half.
They trimmed the deficit to 44-42 at the end of three quarters.
The two-point deficit remained until the last 50 seconds of the game, when Clinton was forced to foul and the Cherokees made them pay by sinking their free throws.
“We had four consecutive stops late in the game, and on our four offensive possessions we missed the front end of a one-and-one twice, and missed two layups,” Lockard said.
The charity stripe was unkind to the Dragons as they went 17-25 at the free-throw line.
Clinton’s Jackson Garner led all scorers with 23 points.
CHS 12 18 12 10 52
MC 14 20 10 16 60
CHS - Jackson Garner (23), Rishon Bright (8), Tyler Morgan (7), Jeremiah Blauvelt (4), Lane Harrison (3), Dodi Truss (3), Hunter Rupert (2)
Playing at Maryville High School on Saturday, the Dragons picked up a pair of wins.
In the opener, they beat Sevier County by a score of 60-50.
The Dragons took a two-point lead into the second quarter and extended that lead to five points, leading 27-22 at the half. They pushed the lead to 44-30 in the third quarter and held off a late surge by the Smokey Bears for the win.
“After the McMinn County game we made some defensive adjustments. We created a lot of turnovers. Sevier County has a great team and one of the best coaches around in Ken Wright. They’re tough to play regardless of how talented they are. They’ve got a great group. I felt like we got back to playing the way we like to play. Our offense started clicking and our transition started working better,” said Lockard.
Trace Thackerson scored a game-high 18 points, which included three 3-pointers. Jackson Garner had 16 points, which included four 3-pointers.
CHS 16 11 17 16 60
SC 14 8 8 20 50
CHS - Trace Thackerson (18), Jackson Garner (16), Rishon Bright (9), Jeremiah Blauvelt (7), Lane Harrison (5), Tyler Morgan (2), Barrett Maddox (2), Brent Reynolds (1)
SC - Cooper Takacs (15), Camden Parrish (11), Braxton Allen (9), Caleb Tarwater (7), Kris Kendrick (5), Reed Ownby (3)
The Dragons had little time to savor their first win of the season as they faced Bradley Central a scant 15 minutes later.
Playing back-to-back games took a physical toll on Clinton as they trailed 14-10 at the end of the first quarter but bounced back to lead 30-26 at the half.
The Dragons extended their lead to 43-34 in the third quarter as their defense clamped down on the Bears. Clinton forced 22 turnovers and had 12 steals in the game. Bradley Central outscored Clinton 19-13 in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t nearly enough for the win.
“Bradley Central was bigger, more physical, and had more depth than Sevier County so I was worried. Again, defensively we were able to mix up what we like to do and turned them over just enough to have more possessions. On the free throw line we finally showed up. We made 21 of 27. We struggled to score against their size but we adapted,” Lockard said.
Jackson Garner led all scorers with 30 points, including five 3-pointers.
CHS 10 20 13 13 56
BC 14 12 8 19 53