Pigeon Forge trying to spread the ball
It was a quarter where Pigeon Forge showed all it could be.
Four different players scored, all getting at least three points, in the first eight minutes against Maryville on Thursday. The Tigers were creating turnovers, moving in transition and letting star Trevor Jain do his thing on drives to the hoop.
That scoring balance dried up over the next three quarters, with Jain scoring 22 of his team’s final 43 points in a 73-58 loss. He finished with 26 points.
“We just need people to start realizing that they need to start stepping up,” said Ryan Beal. “They’re getting the job done. Everybody’s starting to play as a team. We’re getting better as a team as the season goes on. That’s what we’re going to need come tournament time.”
Jain has shown he’s a bona fide superstar with his scoring ability, but it’s the support he receives that seems to dictate the Tigers’ success. Look no further than Monday’s road win over Catholic where Pigeon Forge put four players in double figures, led by Jain’s 20, and had a fifth player score eight points.
“When we pass the ball around, get everyone shooting and scoring, it opens up everything,” Jain said. “I think it helps our defense, too. When everyone’s scoring, it feels like everyone gives their best effort on defense. That opens up the floor, too. We get steals, get out in transition.”
When there’s not just one focal point, the Tigers are that much more potent. It’s the defensive conundrum the Tigers faced Thursday against a talented Maryville team that had four players reach double figures led by 17 from John Garrett.
“You’ve got to love that,” said Rebels coach Mark Eldridge. “We’ve got 10 guys that can go out and put up double digits. Once we get used to everybody back into it, I really like our team.”
Pigeon Forge just has to develop those extra scorers. Kucela said he’s been impressed both with guys like Beal and Nate Marine providing points. Marine had six points in the first half on Thursday, mostly in transition. If those two can consistently help out Jain and Jake Kingery, who typically is the No. 2 scorer, the Tigers could be tough to stop.
“People just have to step up,” Marine said. “(Jain) just can’t carry it all by himself. Other people have to get in, crash the board, shoot the ball well, follow their shots. ... If we control the ball, keep the ball in our hands, good things will happen. More people will score.”
Kucela said he can see his team coming around and getting closer to that balance. It’s a matter of playing four quarters like Thursday’s first.
“We’re just getting more of a team effort,” Kucela said. “There were spurts in that game where we looked pretty good, especially when we’re playing together.”