by darren reese
The race for the postseason is about to heat up on the local basketball scene.
With holiday tournaments in the rearview, the regular season will resume this Friday with a full slate of games.
All five county high schools will be in district action, including a big inter-county match-up between Greeneville and Chuckey-Doak.
North Greene hosts Cloudland and South Greene entertains Claiborne. West Greene goes on the road to Cumberland Gap.
The girls' teams from each of those schools competed in the annual Landair Ladies Classic last week, and though the highest-finishing team was South Greene in fifth place, all five coaches used the tournament as a learning tool for their young squads.
The Lady Rebels were the most impressive, as their only blemish of the Classic came in a close defeat to eventual champion Murfreesboro Oakland.
South Greene had spent the previous three weeks without junior forward Alora Ricker, due to an ankle injury, but the team needed no adjustment period with her back in the line-up.
The Lady Rebels defeated perennial state powers Shelbyville and Wilson Central before taking the fifth-place game over Chuckey-Doak, 70-47.
South Greene led Oakland - ranked 15th in the nation by USA Today - in the second half before falling off the pace late in the game.
The Lady Rebels have games against Claiborne and Cumberland Gap before a key home showdown with district-leading Grainger on Jan. 11.
"Hopefully we can keep this momentum going," South Greene head coach Stephen Gregg said after the Classic.
"We have been playing harder this week than we have all year, and good things have happened because of it."
Another local girls' team that seemed to be playing its best ball of the season during the Classic was Chuckey-Doak.
Head coach Beth Frye lost the majority of last year's Region 1-AA championship line-up, and she has spent the first part of this season trying to mold a new group.
The Lady Knights defeated Charlotte Christian (N.C.) and Greeneville last week. They face the same Greeneville team tomorrow night in a key District 2-AA tilt. Chuckey-Doak is currently 3-2 in league play, while Greeneville is 2-2.
Greeneville won its first game of the Classic, against Holy Name (Oh.), but struggled in a 54-23 loss to eventual runner-up Morristown West, and then was eliminated by Chuckey-Doak, 67-54.
The North Greene girls (13-4, 1-1 District 1-A) went 1-2 in the tournament, but the Lady Huskies were playing without senior standout Laiken Morrow.
The King College signee is scheduled to return tomorrow night when Cloudland comes calling.
The Lady Highlanders are the defending district and region champions, and advanced to state last year, however, they are just 5-9 overall this season.
North Greene head coach James Buchanan feels like having to play the Classic without Morrow will prove beneficial to his team down the stretch.
"Lauren Baxter, Shayna Harmon, Faith Mercer, those post players got better this week. It's unfortunate Laiken couldn't play but in the long run I think it's going to help us because those other three got so many minutes," Buchanan said.
For West Greene, they have an opportunity to pick up their first District 2-AA win of the season tomorrow as they travel to play a Cumberland Gap squad that is winless on the season.
The Lady Buffaloes (2-12, 0-4) ended an eight-game losing streak by defeating Morristown East on the second day of the Ladies Classic. They also witnessed standout forward Charlotte Murphy go over 1,000 points for her career in the victory.
Murphy is the only senior on the roster this season, and head coach Ed Gettys hopes to see his squad make continual improvement down the stretch.
"I really think we got better (during the Classic," Gettys said. "We won a game and I think we played pretty good in it. We played a lot harder than we've been playing. I feel like we've given a better effort and we can definitely take some positives away from this tournament."