Highlanders sweep Union in 3-AA opener
The Gatlinburg-Pittman hoops teams played their District 3-AA opener in their sparkling new gymnasium Friday night and came away with a pair of satisfying victories over the Union County Patriots.
The G-P boys used a colossal 27-point fourth quarter to earn a 79-69 win over Union, while coach Katie Parton’s girls put a 71-34 thumping on the Lady Patriots.
After leading for the majority of the game, a bad third quarter saw the Highlander boys (6-2, 1-0 in 3-AA) tied with Union 52-52 heading into the final period.
“We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and kind of let them hang around,” G-P coach A.J. Bennett said. “But there’s something about us in the fourth quarter. We usually play well, and we did tonight.”
Sparked by Steffan Schroeder’s monster fourth quarter — which saw him score 12 points in eight minutes — the Highlanders gained control and won going away.
“I told them this was the first conference game at home, and we needed someone to step up,” Bennett said.
“Steffan got hot, he hit a couple of big 3s and after that they started running out at him, and he just blew past them for layups.”
But Schroeder didn’t do it alone.
“Once again, it was a total team effort,” Bennett said. “Clay (Leatherwood) got hot early and they started focusing on him, and Steffan and Davis (Soehn) stepped up. That’s the thing about our team: you can’t focus on any one guy on our team. If you do someone else will pick up the slack. We’ve got four guys averaging over 10 points per game right now.
“Offense is never going to be a concern for us. It’s going to come down to whether we can stop anybody and rebounding the basketball. We did a very, very poor job with that tonight and it almost got us beat.
“We just don’t box out really well. But trust me, we’re going to work on it. We’re going to work on it quite a bit. We’re going to get that fixed.”
The G-P girls (7-1, 1-0 in 3-AA), as expected, had a little easier going against the overmatched Lady Patriots.
The Lady Highlanders started the game on a 13-0 and cruised to the 71-34 victory.
Parton’s girls outscored Union 23-6 after one, despite going deep into their bench, playing 10 players in the opening frame.
“Union County was very small, so we just kept pounding it inside to Dannie (Luczak) and Bethany (Sutton),” Parton said. “Then Haris (Price) hit some 3s, and Karsen got some buckets.
“We were just playing on emotion from our defense.”
Parton said that defensive intensity had been a goal for the team prior to the game.
As next week’s rivalry game against Pigeon Forge on Friday approaches, Parton wants her team ready.
The Lady Highlanders have yet to beat the Lady Tigers since she took over the program from coach Mike Rader three seasons ago.
“Like I always say, they’re such a well-coached team. They know what they do and they do it well,” she said.
“I know we haven’t won one time against them since I’ve been the head coach, and that’s one thing, if we could ever do that I think we’d be much more successful. It’s become kind of a mental block.
When you’ve been beaten by somebody the last four years, that’s always in your mind. And it’s a big rivalry, and a lot plays into that.”
Against Union, Price led eight G-P scorers with 20 points. Luczak was next with 15, followed by Bethany Sutton and Macee Tinker with nine each.
Sims tallied eight, six of which came in the opening quarter.
Alicia Sumeriski had four points, and Julia Maloney and Erica Schreiner chipped in three each.
Both G-P squads will be in action Tuesday at The King’s Academy before Friday night’s battle at Pigeon Forge.