Injuries force Pigeon Forge to find new scorers
It was a loss, but Paul Reagan said he’s rarely been prouder of a group of girls.
“I felt very confident, even without Mikayla (Trombley), that we were going to win the game,” said the Pigeon Forge girls basketball coach. “(Rebecca Baker) goes down, and then ‘Oh gosh, two of our best ball handlers are out of the game. What are we going to do?’ It makes me play more girls and also, it made those other girls step up.”
It was the beginning of a midseason stretch where the Tigers had to live without two of their best players. Trombley, a 1,000-point scorer, had been injured two weeks before that game against Walker Valley. Now, without Baker at the point, Pigeon Forge looked awfully young.
But that youth forced into the fire led to growth. Pigeon Forge (16-7) went 8-2 down the stretch and, with Baker and Trombley returning, the Tigers have found a scoring balance that makes them difficult to defend entering this weekend's District 3-AA tournament.
“We had to step up and start handling the ball ourselves,” said junior Alyssa Mitchell. “And working with each other better. … It was really hard. Everyone has to step up and if we don’t, it just makes everything worse.”
Senior night against Claiborne showed how far the Tigers had come. Nine players entered the scorebook and five had at least six points. While that was a blowout win, that kind of balance has become the norm. Four players had nine points or more in wins over Carter and Cosby this month.
Players like Mitchell and Sarah Hill are often in the midst of that scoring. The list of offensive threats that can put up double digits on any given night is growing.
“(Mitchell) had to step up,” Reagan said. “She’s playing point, so she’s having to run it all. She’s pushing it. Her defense has always been great, but that helped her gain more confidence. That’s helped our team immensely.
“Sarah can score with anybody. Sarah’s got so much ability. That’s helped her confidence level as well.”
Confidence may be the biggest difference maker for the Tigers. Reagan said even Baker was a little unsure when she first returned from injury, only getting back to her December ability in the last two weeks. For younger players, being pushed to perform in pressure situations gives them the self-esteem boost to do it again.
“It gave me more confidence when I was out there,” said sophomore Shelby Dockery. “I’m not thinking about doing it wrong and always being positive.”
The adversity this team has faced also sparked some camaraderie in the locker room, Reagan said. The coach’s players enjoy playing with each other and want to win for each other, even when one of them is sidelined.
“We can help each other out more now,” Mitchell said. “We depend on each other. We all have confidence in each other.”