G-P boys earn road win
Playing their final game of the week, the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders (14-11, 3-5 in District 3-AA) snapped a two-game slide with a 63-53 win over Oliver Springs (7-15, 4-5 in District 4-A) on the road Thursday night.
In the girls contest, the Lady Highlanders (18-6, 8-0 in District 3-AA) struggled without Division-1 signee Karsen Sims, who was out with illness, losing 65-49 to the Lady Bobcats (16-4, 8-1), the state’s 6th-ranked single-A team.
Coach A.J. Bennett’s boys, who’d suffered disappointing losses to Cocke County and Cosby earlier in the week, were on their game, however, and earned an always-impressive double-digit road win.
A big second quarter from Clay Leatherwood, along with another all-around game from Steffan Schroeder propelled the Highlanders to the victory.
Leading by three points after one quarter, Leatherwood caught fire for G-P in the second, nailing a trio of 3-pointers to push the team to a 38-26 lead at intermission.
“He knocked some shots down and kind of separated us (from the Bobcats),” Bennett said.
But the scrappy bunch from Oliver Spring, fueled by their rowdy home crowd, cut the lead to three points at 54-51 in the fourth quarter.
“I called timeout, and we kind of got it together,” Bennett said. “We had been playing man-to-man (defense) all night, and they’d kind of figured us out. We moved to a zone after the timeout and it really bothered them. After that we kind of expanded the lead back out to win by 10.”
Schroeder again led the Highlanders in scoring with 18 points, followed by Leatherwood’s 17.
Christian Maloney, who’s excelled of late for G-P, added 16 big points from his spot in the post.
“I talked to Christian after the Pigeon Forge game and told him we needed him to step it up and play a bigger role for us,” Bennett said. “He answered with nine against Cocke County and 11 against Cosby (before the 16 Thursday night).
“Hopefully he’s coming along and it’ll help us down the stretch,” the coach said. As for the girls game, missing one key cog was big for the Lady Highlanders. Girls coach Katie Parton said being without Sims was tough. “We definitely missed her leadership,” Parton said.
“Haris (Price) and Dannie (Luczak) both tried to really step up,” she explained. “We just couldn’t score. We definitely missed legs a little bit.
“(But) Oliver Springs is a very good team, they’re very physical and they play well at home.”
The G-P teams will play two huge district games in the coming week, Tuesday at home against Austin-East and Friday on the road at Fulton. The Lady Highlanders are just one game up on the Lady Falcons, and a loss could result in a regular-season tie atop the district.
G-P’s boys would also love to score an upset win over either A-E or Fulton, the district’s two front-runners. “We’re right there in the standings and can go anywhere,” Bennett said. “We’re going to come out and play our game and give ourselves a chance to win.”