KNOXVILLE — The William Blount boys refused to panic during the second half, even when the shots weren’t falling.
Their offense struggled at times in the second half against Hardin Valley Academy, but their defense kept them within striking distance during the final 16 minutes. The Governors knew that if they kept earning defensive stops, they would eventually see the ball go through the net.
“We just told each other, ‘Next play! Don’t worry about the one that just happened. The next shot is going in,’” junior guard Cole Gibson told The Daily Times. “We just uplifted each other like that.”
That mindset paid dividends. Sophomore Matthew Clemmer scored on a putback to give William Blount a one-point lead with four minutes left. Gibson drained a 3-pointer in the left corner with two minutes left; Caden Williamson scored in transition and the Governors converted from the foul line to churn out a 53-47 win at Hardin Valley on Monday.
“I thought in the fourth quarter that we took better shots,” said assistant coach Jeremy Macejewski, who served as acting head coach while Kevin Windle served the the first game of his two-game suspension after he was ejected from Friday’s game against Bearden.
“We were a lot smarter with the ball in transition. Some of the seniors stepped up and made plays. Kudos to them. That’s a blue-collar win for us. That’s kind of the way we are built. Hopefully, we can build on that.”
Cole Gibson led the Governors (7-9, 2-3 District 4-AAA) with 20 points. Trey Clemmer finished with 10 points.
All those players stepped up on defense. After trailing 29-28 at halftime, the Governors limited the Hawks to 18 second-half points and held Hardin Valley scoreless for a five-minute span in the fourth quarter. William Blount wasn’t permitting any open looks.
“We really feed off our defense,” Gibson said. “That’s what starts it. Once we get a few stops, the offense just comes really easy.”
That was the case on Monday. The Governors still trailed 41-40 with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, but went on a 9-0 run to take a 49-41 lead with 24.3 seconds remaining. It was only fitting during the run that a defensive play proved to be the dagger. After Gibson’s triple gave William Blount a four-point lead, England blocked a layup on the next possession. That led to a runout where Williamson scored a layup with 1:40 seconds left.
The Governors forced another stop and burned clock on the next possession to seal the victory.
“We’ve had some nice wins this year and in each one of them, we played really well defensively,” Macejewski said. “It kind of energizes our offense. I think our guys are getting a lot better defensively; they are getting a lot smarter. I think coach Windle has done a good job of game planning and knowing the other team’s personnel so we are able to defend people a certain way.
“I am happy for the kids because they did this together. It was a collected effort.”
The William Blount girls basketball coach was mostly frustrated over the game’s lack of flow. William Blount and Hardin Valley combined to commit six fouls during the first two minutes and neither had made a field goal during the first four.
Kallenberg’s exasperation didn’t last for long. Once the Lady Governors established an offensive rhythm to go along with their relentless defense, the game quickly turned into a rout, as William Blount cruised to a 45-17 victory over the Lady Hawks on Monday to snap a three-game losing streak.
“I think we saw some growth this past week,” Kallenburg said. “Even though we dropped a couple games against Farragut and Bearden, I thought there were definitely patches in those games where we played well. I think that gave them some confidence. Just seeing that growth continue to go a little bit further is a gratifying thing.”
The Lady Governors (5-8, 2-3 District 4-AAA) relied on their defense to build a large lead. The Lady Hawks didn’t even make a field goal until 2:34 remaining in the second quarter, and finished the contest with just five made field goals.
The Lady Governors controlled the boards, limiting Hardin Valley’s second-chance opportunities, and swiped seven steals that produced multiple transition opportunities.
“I think we definitely played one of our better defensive games,” junior guard McKenna Myers said. “In practice, we have really been focusing on boxing out. (Coach Kallenburg) has actually set a goal for us during our games that we have to have 70% box outs or we will have a punishment, so we have definitely been focusing on box outs.”
In the first half, Myers scored seven consecutive points to spark a 7-0 run. In the second half, Freshman Chloe Russell delivered the game’s exclamation point. With William Blount leading 34-10 in the third quarter, she chased down a rebound in the right corner, drove the full length of the court and scored a contested layup while drawing a foul. She buried the ensuing free throw to complete the 3-point play. From there, Kallenburg began substituting his young players.
“It was really good to get a good district win,” Myers said. “The past couple of district games have been at home and unfortunately we haven’t been able to win those. It was good to get a win on the road.”