Bears stay unbeaten at Heritage Classic
The Sevier County Smoky Bears improved to 3-0 on the season by winning two basketball games in convincing fashion at the Heritage Thanksgiving Classic over the weekend.
The Bears downed the William Blount Governors by 25 points, 67-42, and then crushed the previously-unbeaten Walker Valley Mustangs (Cleveland, Tenn.) by a 17-point margin 81-64.
Coach Ken Wright was pleased with his team’s play in the Classic, especially the win over District 5-AAA’s Walker Valley — which had just blown out Morristown East the night before by 29 points.
“They’ve got a really good ball club,” Wright said of the Mustangs. “(But) we really came out ready to play. There were times in that game where we looked really good. But our problem has been with our consistency — that maintained level of consistent play.”
The Bears raced out to a 23-8 lead in the first quarter, and Delta State-signee Devin Schmidt accounted for 13 of those points.
“That’s just what Devin’s capable of,” Wright said. “He played a fantastic game offensively. He ended up scoring 39. (And) he sat out about half the second quarter with a couple of fouls on him.”
With Schmidt and teammate Jacob Whaley held out for much of the second to avoid foul trouble, Walker Valley cut the lead to 38-25 by intermission.
“We didn’t want to take a chance on foul trouble with a big lead,” Wright said.
After half the Bears fought to hold their lead over the Mustangs, outscoring them 43-39 in the third and fourth periods to take the big win.
“Defensively, their point guard gave us a lot of problems,” Wright said. “We had a hard time stopping his penetration. We’ve got to do a better job defensively, but offensively we were about as good as we can be.
“Cody Underwood played a really solid game for us,” the coach continued. “He scored 13 points took a couple charges and had some big rebounds.”
Whaley also ended the game in double-figures with 10 points, while Brent Delozier tallied seven and Weston Underwood, Trent Pope and Logan McCarter combined for 12 more.
The loss dropped Walker Valley to 3-1.
The previous night the Bears toppled William Blount 67-42.
In that game Schmidt again led the way with 20 points.
Whaley had 12, while Cody Underwood, McCarter, Jesse Adams and Delozier had six each. Weston Underwood, Bailey Fields and Devonte Mathews combined for another 11 points in the win.
“We got on them 16-7 at the end of one and were up 35-21 at half,” Wright said. “We pulled away in the second half.”
TIGERS NEXT: Sevier County’s next challenge will be this Thursday against county rival Pigeon Forge, which is coached by Jonathan Shultz, who played for Ken Wright at Gatlinburg-Pittman.
The Tigers are playing an unconventional style this season that emphasizes the full-court press and a barrage of 3-point attempts. The system was created by Grinnell College coach David Arseneault, and Grinnell recently had a player, Jack Taylor, score an NCAA-record 138 points in a game — mainly due to his 71 3-point tries.
“(Pigeon Forge) plays a different style,” Wright said about what his team would face Thursday. “(Shultz) is running in a new group of players in every 45 seconds or so, they’re pressing you all over and they’re shooting a ton of threes. If they’re on from the outside they can beat anybody.
“With a team like that you almost have to forgo the help-side (defense), they’re wanting you to help so they can kick it out and shoot the open three,” Wright said. “And they’re trying to force you into running up and down the floor and shooting quick.
That’s something the Bears won’t likely try to fight.
“You want to attack it, you don’t want to be passive,” Wright said. “It’s a high-risk, high-reward defense. It’s about how well you handle the ball and how well you can weather the storm.”
WORK IN PROGRESS: Though his players have now back from football for over a week, Wright said his squad is still a work in progress.
“We’re still not in basketball shape,” Wright said. “Our football guys will be the first to tell you they’re still wearing down.”
That could be a challenge with Pigeon Forge’s up-tempo style.
“Our depth is going to be tested, no doubt,” the coach said. “We’re going to have to have some of our young guys step up. We’re going to need to play 10-12 kids just to be able to handle the pace of the game.”