Sweetwater faced off against a stout shooting Kingston on Monday night, falling 64-31 in the opening round of the District 3-2A tournament to a Lady Yellow Jackets team that shined with 11 3-pointers and 11 different scorers.
“We knew going in that it was going to be a tough challenge. That is a team that is right behind McMinn Central and Meigs County,” Sweetwater coach Jeremy Henderson said. “We did not execute the greatest. We needed to guard the perimeter much better.”
Kingston (17-8) knocked down 23 field goals while the Lady Cats (5-18) turned the ball over 28 times.
“We did not handle the pressure well. We tried, but at the end of the day, we did not execute well. Kingston boys and Kingston girls, when they are at home they just seem to shoot the ball well when they are on their home court,” Henderson said.
Sweetwater tried their 1-1-2 zone and triangle 2 zone defenses but still struggled to slow down the opposition.
Lily Hill and Ella Lemons finished in double digits while Braxton Fritz and Macey Neal were on the cusp with nine points each.
Sweetwater’s scoring came mostly from Ella Fox. The senior accounted for over 50% of the Lady Wildcats’ points in her farewell to basketball performance.
“I joked with her at halftime saying ‘where has this been all year.’ I felt like she put together a really, really strong performance,” Henderson said. “She played well and has been dominant on the boards for the bulk of the year. I felt like this was her strongest game. She played her heart out and got after it. On a personal note, she went out with a bang.”
Fox added 13 rebounds to mark a double-double evening.
While Sweetwater’s season ended in the first round, the program has set a fair foundation in the first year under Jeremy Henderson. Made up of a majority of underclassmen, the Lady ’Cats elbowed their way into gritty and respectful performances throughout the season.
“When you are the sixth seed and went winless in the district you have quite the challenge ahead of you,” Henderson said. “We are so young and inexperienced in spots — that is not a knock on our girls. I am very proud of the improvement they made throughout the year.”
If continuing in the direction set in 2022-23, Sweetwater could be looking at a fair horizon in a traditionally challenging district.
“In an ideal world, you are not throwing freshmen just out of junior high basketball to the wolves in a very tough district. They gave it their all and got better as the year went on,” Henderson added. “Defensively, we were not at our best tonight, but you have to credit Kingston. From a statistical standpoint, we were one of the top defenses by far in the district. We were holding opponents where we needed to.”
Three seniors marked the end of their season for the Lady Wildcats.
“When you get to high school basketball it is very time-consuming. It is not for everybody,” Henderson said. “I tell them all the time kids are walking the halls that can’t do what they do. They put in the time and effort. People don’t see the days of conditioning when you are crawling around.”
Fox is joined by Gracie Hart, a three-year starter, and Alaysia Macon.
“Ella, when she came in as a freshman to where she developed, she made a lot of strides. As did the other two,” Henderson said. “Alaysia had a hard time staying healthy and I hate that for her. She had a lot of injury problems throughout her high school career.
“Gracie has started since her sophomore year. She played quite a bit as a freshman. It is one of those situations that is tough when you get thrown to the fire early on.”
Kingston advances to face Meigs County in the District 3-2A semifinals on Thursday. The Lady Yellow Jackets will join McMinn Central, Meigs County and Tellico Plains in the Region 2-2A tournament.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.