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PREP BASKETBALL: Raiderettes claim Smoky Mountain Classic championship

Posted on Monday, December 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm

The Moore County Raiderettes celebrate after winning the Smoky Mountain Classic in Gatlinburg on Dec. 22. (Photo Provided)

Before heading to the Gatlinburg-Pittman Smoky Mountain Classic tournament, Moore County girls basketball head coach Bruce Slatton jokingly said he hoped his team would pick up a couple of wins while playing hoops in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

It turns out that the Raiderettes did one better for their coach.

Moore County won three games en route to the tournament title. The Raiderettes (11-3) beat Heritage High School, of Ringgold, Ga., 57-52 in the tournament championship game on Saturday.

Along the way, Moore County claimed a 44-33 win against Paintsville (Ky.) and a hard fought 40-35 win over Harlan County (Ky.).

“It was a good tournament. We didn’t know a whole lot about any of those teams before we got there,” said Slatton. “Paintsville, we got them pretty good early and then held on … kept in double digits most of the way. We knew if we got by them we would play a really good team in Harlan County. They were undefeated. We were lucky that we got a film on them and were able to scout them out a little bit.”

Moore County’s defense was a big key in all three games, especially the semifinals, when the Raiderettes slowed down a high scoring Harlan County squad. Harlan County came into Friday’s game against Moore County 10-0 after opening up the tournament with a 56-31 victory over Signal Mountain. In that game, the Lady Bears had a 28-9 lead by halftime.

While Moore County senior Sarah Raby scored 29, 19 and 22 points in the three tournament games, the Raiderettes needed solid defense to get to the finals. That included containing Harlan County freshman guard Brooklyn Massingill, who scored 18 in the tournament opener. That task fell primarily to MCHS senior Erica Limbaugh.

“We held them to 35 points, which was about 25 below their average. We did some good things in that game,” added Slatton. “Erica, her defense was outstanding Friday night against a kid (Massingill) who was averaging about 25. She held her to five points. There were a lot of highlights (in the tournament). We had some different kids who stepped up.”

After getting by to two teams from Kentucky, Moore County held on against a solid Heritage team.

“We felt like we survived two really good teams, and (Heritage) had a really nice team too,” said Slatton. “They were 11-1. The games Friday and Saturday were back and forth … nail biters. We put a lot of effort into that Harlan County game Friday night. It was a very physical game. We were not quite as sharp on either end of the floor on Saturday night. Give Heritage credit, they shot the ball very well and they made their free throws.”

While the Raiderettes came home with nice hardware, they had little time to celebrate their success. Moore County’s girls were slated to open play in the South Pittsburg Christmas Tournament at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday against Grundy County.

The Raiderettes play Thursday against Marion County and Friday against the No. 1 team in Class 2A in Alabama, North Sand Mountain. The teams will then be seeded and they will play a fourth game on Saturday.

East Ridge, Tyner Academy, Sequatchie County and host South Pittsburg are in the second pool.

Slatton gave the team off until Wednesday.

“That will give them some time to get their focus back and give me some time for me to get my focus back,” he said.

He added that he hopes playing back-to-back-to-back games two weekends in a row will make the Raiderettes better down the stretch.

“I’m just looking to see who is going to be the toughest and who’s going to give the best effort each night,” he said. “You’re always trying to find ways to challenge your team. One thing that I’ve always said about our team is that they always respond positive. They may not always like the way I challenge them, but the (response) is always positive.”