Clutch foul shooting lifts Pigeon Forge past Gatlinburg-Pittman
Rebecca Baker just wanted to finish the victory.
Pigeon Forge had already lost Mikayla Trombley to an ankle injury late in Friday’s game with Gatlinburg-Pittman. The Tigers didn’t want to lose the game, too, with Trombley in pain on the bench.
“I was doing it for Mikayla honestly,” Baker said. “To see a teammate go down like that, I just wanted to win it for her.”
Did she ever. Baker was 6 of 6 at the foul line in the final quarter, helping her team hold off the Highlanders for a 53-52 victory inside Pigeon Forge High School. The difference came at that line, with G-P missing five free throws in the final quarter and 13 for the game. It was enough to negate back-to-back 3s from the Highlanders in a final minute that left the home crowd biting its nails.
“It’s tough to step up, but we’re going to have to do it eventually,” said G-P’s Dannie Luczak. “We’re going to have to get to the point where we can make (free throws). It was just a tough crowd tonight. I’d rather lose to them now than later on or in the district tournament.”
Luczak led the Highlanders (8-3, 1-1 District 3-AA) with 16 points, while Haris Price added 12. Baker and Callie Clabo each had 16 for the Tigers (6-0, 3-0). Trombley had 10 before going down and reaching for her ankle before an in-bounds play late in the fourth quarter. Pigeon Forge coach Paul Reagan said he wasn’t sure how long the senior would be out.
“She’s going to be back,” Reagan said. “I don’t when she’ll be back, but she’s going to be back. … We had some girls step up after that. That’s what I was impressed with.”
It was a back-and-forth game with neither team leading by more than seven, and that wasn’t until the fourth quarter when Pigeon Forge jumped ahead. Clabo had 13 of her 16 in the second half, including a trio of important 3-pointers.
Clabo began each of the final two periods with a 3, none bigger than the tie-breaking trifecta she nailed to start the fourth. The game was never tied again.
“I just saw it was a close game,” Clabo said. “I realized that someone had to step up. We all did because we wanted to win so bad.”
Those bombs and Baker’s mastery at the foul line were enough, even without Trombley on the floor down the stretch. Reagan said he devotes so much time in practice to shooting, some may call him crazy. No one could say that Friday night when Baker just shrugged at the pressure the foul line brings.
“They’re very important to win the game,” she said. “You have to make them. … We just remained composed and that’s who wins the game.”
Gatlinburg-Pittman 70, Pigeon Forge 65
PIGEON FORGE — The Tigers made it close down the stretch, cutting a double-digit lead down to a possession three times in the fourth quarter.
But Pigeon Forge got no closer.
“You knew Pigeon Forge was going to give us their best shot there in the fourth quarter,” said G-P coach A.J. Bennett. “They’re a good basketball team. They’re on their home floor. It’s a rivalry. Nothing’s done until the final horn. … Those are the games we didn’t finish last year but this year we’re finding a way to win and that’s encouraging.”
The Highlanders (10-1, 2-0) had four players in double figures led by Clay Leatherwood’s 15 points. Christian Maloney and Thomas Mackey had 14 points each while Riley Trotter chipped in with 10.
Trevor Jain finished with 28 for Pigeon Forge (4-5, 1-2) while Jake Kingery added 21. Jain was held scoreless in the second quarter as G-P used a 17-0 run to push its lead into double digits.
It stayed there until a Kingery 3 followed by a Jain layup cut the lead to three midway through the fourth. But the Highlanders had an answer for every Pigeon Forge rally, finally getting the winning margin with a pair of Steffen Schroeder free throws.
“There’s three games — this one tonight, Grainger, Morristown West — that could’ve been winnable games,” said Tigers coach John Kucela. “You’ve just got to take care of the basketball. You’ve got to make layups. Those are all things that add up over the course of a game.”