The William Blount boys didn’t experience many organized team activities during the spring and summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, they didn’t use that as an excuse to stop training.
The Governors constantly communicated with each other in their group chat, arranging shooting sessions at different outdoor gyms in the area.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” junior guard Cole Gibson told The Daily Times. “We were really good as far as contacting each other in getting (shots) in, even without something scheduled by our coach. We made sure we got our shots in and stayed ready for the season. … I think that has really paid off this season.”
It certainly paid dividends on Monday against South-Doyle. The Governors buried 10 triples to cruise to a 67-59 victory over the Cherokees. Gibson led William Blount (3-3) with a season-high 18 points. Marshall Cooper and Caleb Linginfelter added 12 and 11, respectively.
Gibson was quick to observe that his teammates didn’t just shoot well from the perimeter against South-Doyle. They also defended well, holding the Cherokees without a field goal in the final minutes of the third quarter to turn a tie score into a seven-point lead. He believes their defense gives them an opportunity to win every game this season. When they are shooting well, they are lethal.
“In the past, William Blount has always been a team that lives by the three or dies by the three,” Gibson said. “This year, I think we are really two-dimensional as far as being able to shut teams out defensively even when the shots aren’t falling. But it’s always nice when they are falling like they did tonight.
I think it was huge for us to come out and be the aggressor like we were tonight, especially with district play starting Friday — just to keep that edge going into the part of the season that really matters.”
Reece Pride began the first-quarter scoring barrage by nailing a triple to give William Blount a 15-14 lead. Gibson followed with another 3-pointer and Evan Mayden splashed another trey from the left wing to stretch the Governors’ lead to 21-14.
The Cherokees remained within striking distance for most of the game. Tony Sapp evened the score at 41 by drilling a jumper midway through the third quarter. Gibson answered by coming off a flare screen and burying a triple. Mayden drilled another 3-pointer to extend the lead to 49-42. Linginfelter delivered the dagger several minutes later, knocking down another triple to give his team a 58-45 lead. The Governors converted from the foul line in the final four minutes to secure the win.
“We played a complete game,” William Blount coach Kevin Windle said. “I am very proud of all our players tonight. ... Obviously, there are some things we need to clean up, but overall I was really pleased. The effort was there. The rebounding was really good offensively and defensively. We shared the basketball.
“If we continue this, we can surprise a lot of people.”
William Blount girls 48, South-Doyle 39:Terryanna Griffin kept attacking William Blount on Monday night.
She forced steals, buried step-back 3s and knifed through the lane to convert contested layups to finish with 27 points.
It wasn’t enough to overcome the Lady Governors. McKenna Myers, Taylor Stout and Madison Kelly made sure of that. The trio continued to make critical plays in critical moments to lift the Lady Governors to a 48-39 victory.
“We always wanted (Griffin) to feel like there were 1.5 people guarding her,” William Blount girls coach Jason Kallenberg said. “We tried a couple different things tonight — some of it was successful, some of it wasn’t. I feel like at times we forced her into some tough shots. She’s a good player. … We didn’t throw the kitchen sink at her, but we threw the drawer for sure. Credit to her, she’s hard to handle. Two weeks ago, she put up 54 on Karns. She’s definitely a kid who can put the ball in the basket.”
Myers, Kelly and Stout proved they are also adept at scoring. Myers led William Blount (3-4) with 15 points. Kelly and Stout added 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The Lady Governors trailed, 20-14, midway through the second quarter. That’s when Kelly and Myers began making plays. Kelly slashed through the lane and finished at the rim on back-to-back possessions to slice the deficit to 20-18. Myers closed the first half with a layup.
In the third quarter, Myers scored six unanswered points to give the Lady Governors a 33-26 lead. She finished the quarter by burying a step-back triple at the buzzer. She and her teammates continued to roll in the fourth quarter.
“I think we are gaining more confidence, but we don’t need to take steps back,” Kelly said. “We are really young, so we are all figuring it out.”