The Moore County girls basketball notched back-to-back wins over the weekend and will head into the Gatlinburg-Pittman Smoky Mountain Classic Christmas Tournament riding a seven-game win streak.
The Raiderettes beat District 9-A foe Huntland 66-39 on Friday night and topped Richland 58-46 on Saturday night.
Now the team turns its focus to East Tennessee, where it will kick off the Christmas break with a three-day tournament in Gatlinburg. Moore County opens play at 7:30 p.m. CST on Thursday, Dec. 20 against Paintsville (Ky.) High School.
If the Raiderettes win, they’ll play at 6 p.m. CST on Friday against the Harlan County (Ky.)/Belfry (Ky.) winner. A loss would send the Raiderettes into the consolation bracket against the Harlan County/Belfry loser.
The championship game is set for 3 p.m. CST on Saturday, with consolation games and a third-place game on tap as well.
While Moore County head coach Bruce Slatton said he hopes his team can continue its winning ways, he added that the trip to Gatlinburg was about more than just victories.
“The first thing is to get them away and get them together,” said Slatton following the Raiderettes’ win over Richland. “We hope to be able to get some companionship and some camaraderie. I think it’s always good to get to travel. Last year we went to Florida.
“It’s good for the team in the middle of the season to get to relax outside the gym … to get away and not have to worry about practice.”
Moore County’s current win streak comes after the Raiderettes started the season 1-3. It also comes as the team inches closer to becoming 100 percent healthy. The Moore County girls started the season with senior Kelsey Camp injured, while battling some sickness as well.
Slatton said the team is a work in progress as the girls try to play their way into form.
“I think we’re pretty good right now,” he said. “We need to get a little better so we will be able to play two or three nights in a row. Overall I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
If anything, Camp’s absence forced some of the Raiderettes into different roles, and perhaps helped the team gain some depth.
“I think it’s made it where we can play eight kids, maybe nine,” added Slatton. “There are a few more of our kids who can handle the ball now. I think it’s helped Scooby (Erin Thomas), Erica (Limbaugh) and Makayla Ray. I think they’re all more comfortable handling the ball now than they were in the first few games of the season.”
Against Richland on Saturday night, the Raiderettes got off to a slow start. But by game’s end, eight players logged playing time and Moore County coasted to a 12-point win. The game wasn’t as close as the final score suggested.
A 17-3 run that stretched from the 2:30 mark of the third quarter to the 5:58 mark of the fourth quarter gave the Raiderettes their largest lead of the game — 17 points at 43-26. A defensive rebound and length-of-the-court drive by Sarah Raby with six seconds left in the third period gave MCHS a 34-23 lead heading into the final frame.
Richland chipped away at the lead over the final five minutes, but couldn’t climb closer than the 10-points.
Raby led Moore County with 25 points, with Thomas adding 10. Abby Grogan scored six points, while Ray, Micayah Smith and Camp netted four apiece. Erica Limbaugh, who left the game after suffering a hard shot to the nose, had three points and Savannah Williams two.
Saturday’s victory came a day after the Raiderettes claimed a big district win over Huntland. Early on, Moore County appeared to suffer the aftereffects of that win. Richland held a slim lead in the opening minutes and the host Raiderettes led just 21-16 at the half.
“We were not real focused in what we wanted to do,” Slatton said. “With that said, Richland has a good team. They have improved as the year has gone along and they have played people a lot tougher. We have to be focused night in, night out. That’s tough when you play one real good team on Friday night and another good team on Saturday night.
“I think it was a good sign with Makayla (Ray) and Micayah Smith, two sophomores, hitting free throws in tough situations.”
By ROBERT HOLMAN, Editor