Tellico Plains split the opening night of basketball on the road to Oliver Springs.
A boys’ win and girls’ loss is the difference on the night, but the two teams will find themselves in similar challenges as the season grows.
Both will begin to navigate the second season of their head coaches’ tenures after having a significant list of key players crossing the graduation stage this past May.
The Bears created distance in the second and third quarters before getting several bodies on the court — the best remedy for the youth to get up to speed.
“It was really good. We are such a young team to begin with, we are starting two freshmen to begin with,” Raby said. “It was really nice to be able to get everyone in the first game of the year.”
Woods is joined by Chadwick Davis as freshmen given starts in the season opener. Davis went 3-for-4 at the line and added a single basket. Woods’ night was led by four buckets in a 14-point third quarter as well as two triples in the second and fourth quarters.
“(Rylan) did not surprise me a bit. He has got it,” Raby said. “He works hard, has put the time in and he has the talent to go with it.”
Millsaps helped lead the early charge with six points in the first quarter, hitting all four free throws. Tellico made 10 of their 16 free throws in the first quarter while only getting to the line
“Anytime you go on the road up in the (Morgan County) area, it is always physical,” Raby added. “That was a good test for our young guys to see how they respond to a little bit of pressure and contact.”
Of the things that Raby and Tellico will hope to develop before district play, finding leaders is key after the number of seniors who graduated.
“As far as leading by example, a couple of the freshmen are already doing that. They do things the right way, they play hard, work hard and are very coachable,” Raby said. “Somewhere down the line, my upperclassmen are really going to have to step up and be leaders as well.”
The Bears’ depth came in handy. Oliver Springs, which has reached the quarterfinals of the Class 1A postseason, dressed only six players.
“Oliver Springs was a little bit short-handed. We knew we had a little more depth than they did, so the only thing we changed defensively was cranking up the pressure and playing in the passing lanes,” Raby said. “We wanted to make it a fast-paced game and we ran it out of the gym in the second half.”
Raby’s crew will get a noticeably different style of basketball when they visit Polk County on Friday.
“(It’s about) the experience. We go to Polk County Friday which will be very tough,” Raby said. “There are going to be some growing pains, but I believe the guys are up to it. We have a good group and a really good freshman class.”
“We have great players that do everything I ask them to do. They are truly, truly a team,” Lady Bears coach Brooke Evans said. “They just have to know that when they catch the ball to score. (Right now) they need to be gaining confidence in themselves.”
Tellico got to the basket efficiently in the third quarter — outscoring Oliver Springs 12-9. Abbi Wear hit a trio of shots — netting six of her eight points in the third — while Kate Hicks supplied five points, helped by a three pointer. Wear and Hicks finished as leading scorers for the Lady Bears.
However, the scoring slowed in the fourth quarter. Tellico was held to three points and one basket from the floor, via Taylor Rose.
“I think they were always looking for someone else to score. They just have to take initiative and know they are going to have to be the ones that put the ball in the hole,” Evans added. “That is the biggest thing we have to adjust to. It is a mindset (to do that), it is repetition and practice.”
Evans went into practice the following day hoping to spur on that mentality, pressuring the squad to take shots when they see them — even encouraging them to pretend they are NBA star Steph Curry.
Tellico went 1-for-3 at the line in the fourth quarter and 9-for-19 (47%) on the night.
“We had to try to pick up the pace. We started pressing to try to speed the game up (in the fourth),” Evans said. “We got to the free throw line well, but we missed our free throws and some easy buckets. If we had made some of those shots we would have had a better chance to win that game.”
Oliver Springs’ night was led by an 18-point performance from Megan Armstrong. The senior arrived in the second quarter with a three pointer and eight points. Chloe Lackey hit a pair of three pointers in the first quarter, finishing with eight points.
“We just have to recognize who their scorers are and put a little more pressure on them,” Evans said. “We are young and learning. It is just going to have to take making those adjustments sooner and me as a coach making those sooner. I will take the blame for her scoring 18 points and not getting more pressure on her.”
After graduating the key players that Tellico had, Evans noted the process it takes for the 2022-23 roster to step into new roles.
“Obviously, (the style) changes since we lost some good seniors. We have some girls stepping into new roles,” Evans added. “You are going to see a different team and you are going to see a different look. But, at the same time, we are still going to play Lady Bear basketball and give it every bit we have got.”
The Lady Bears will travel to Polk County on Friday.