The 2019-20 basketball season seemed more official on Tuesday, as the Rhea County High School Golden Eagle basketball teams returned from starting the season with two road games and welcomed the Sweetwater Wildcats for their home opener.
The Lady Eagles (3-0) opened the night with a 62-30 rout over the Lady Wildcats, while the Eagles (1-2) weren’t so lucky, as they suffered a 69-36 loss to the Sweetwater boys’ squad.
Lady Eagles 62, Lady Wildcats 30
The Rhea girls took control of the game early on both sides of the court. Aside from draining four 3-pointers in the opening quarter, two from Lady Eagle leading scorer, Mallory Hampton, and one apiece from Haley Cameron and Maddie Taylor, the Rhea defense forced multiple first period turnovers and converted them into fast break points to take a 18-6 lead headed to the second quarter.
Hampton had a break out game in this young season, as she scored 10 of her game-high 27 points in the opening quarter. She finished the game with four treys, six steals and four assists.
Despite Sweetwater doubling its point production, it was more of the same in the second quarter, as the Lady Eagles dominated the boards, forced more turnovers and outscored the Lady Wildcats 19-12. Hampton dropped in 10 more points, while Taylor tallied five of her eight total points. McKinley Mathis and Macy Welch each scored a basket, and the Lady Eagles led 37-18 at the break.
Welch drained a pair of treys and scored eight of her 10 total points in the third period to lead the Lady Eagles. Hampton added four more, while Maddie Smith and Emma Gentry each scored two points. Rhea led 53-25 headed to the fourth quarter.
Hampton sank her fourth 3-pointer of the game in the final quarter to conclude her scoring. Smith added four more points, and Emily McClure hit a 2-pointer, as the Lady Eagles cruised to a 32-point victory and improved to 3-0 on the season.
“Even though we scored 18 points in the first quarter, we started off a little slow tonight. We’re still trying to get started off quicker and faster,” said Lady Eagle head coach Tracy Vest on the win. “Mallory [Hampton] carried us tonight, and she set the tone. It’s by far, the best game she’s played so far this year, and that’s the Mallory we’re looking for.
And, I thought our defense was up to par,” continued Vest regarding his team’s overall performance. “It was a solid win, and I think we got better tonight. Even though it was a 30-point win, but then again, I thought we got better. As long as we can keep taking steps forward, that’s all we’re working on right now.”
Scorers for the Lady Eagles include: Hampton 27; Welch 10; Taylor 8; Smith 6; Mathis 4; Cameron 3; Gentry 2; McClure 2.
Eagles 36, Wildcats 69
Perhaps the visiting Sweetwater boys’ team failed to get the memo, the one where the home team is almost always supposed to win the home opener, no matter what the circumstances. As it were, the Wildcats came out on fire, as they used four 3-pointers from the same player and 25 first quarter points to take a 25-13 lead headed to the second period.
Rhea senior, and leading scorer, Ricky Guthrie, dropped in 10 of his 14 total points on the night in the opening period, while senior point guard, Hunter Brady, drained a 3-pointer for the Eagles.
The Eagles battled back in the second quarter, producing nine more points to Sweetwater’s 14. Carter Rekoske drained two 3-pointers while sophomore, Tyler Dupre, came off the bench to add three points to Rhea’s effort.
The Wildcats led 39-22 at the half. Austin Brackett and Brady were the only point producers in the third period, as they each scored two points. The Wildcats tallied 22 more points and took a 61-26 advantage to the fourth and final quarter.
The Eagles won the fourth period 10-8, but it was too late, as the Wildcats had done the damage. Brady, Guthrie and Dupre were the Rhea point contributors in the last quarter. The loss drops the Eagles to 1-2 on the season.
Rhea boys’ head coach, Daniel Curtis, was not pleased with his team’s overall performance in the lop-sided loss.
“It was an embarrassing and frustrating night, all the way around,” said Curtis of the Eagles’ 33-point loss. “As a coach, you just feel helpless, because I don’t feel the kids came ready to play. You put them in an offense and defense you think they can be successful in, then they get out there and don’t play with the effort you expect them to play with, and they don’t execute the way you teach them, it’s just frustrating.
Sophomores Austin Brackett and Tyler Dupre came in and played pretty good, and I was pleased with their efforts, and they’re going to have to be able to contribute for us in the near future,” continued Curtis. “We’re going to put this game behind us and get ready for our game at Hixson on Monday.”
Eagle scorers include: Guthrie 14; Brady 9; Rekoske 6; Dupre 5; Brackett 2.
The RCHS hoop squads will travel to Hixson High School on Monday, Dec. 2, and take on the Wildcats. The Lady Eagles’ game starts at 6 p.m., and the Eagles’ game will follow at 7:30 p.m.