(Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 edition)

The Rhea County High School Golden Eagle basketball teams kicked off the 2020-21 season, with the Eagles squaring off with the Walker Valley High School Mustangs on Tuesday night, and the Lady Eagles traveling to face the Ooltewah High School Lady Owls on Thursday night.

The Lady Eagles captured a 52-40 victory over the Lady Owls, as the Eagles suffered a 61-34 setback to the Mustangs.

After a slow start, the Lady Eagles trailed 16-8 at the end of the first period. However, the Rhea girls rallied in the second with an 11-6 run to end the half. At the half, Ooltewah led 22-19.

It was more of the same in the third quarter, as the Lady Eagles kept the rally going and outscored the Lady Owls 17-7 and held a 36-29 lead headed to the fourth quarter. Rhea’s Hayla Patton, who led all scorers with 21 points, which included six 3-pointers, knocked down three treys in the third period and added a basket to pace the Lady Eagles.

The Lady Eagles outscored Ooltewah 18-11 in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Second-year head coach, Tracy Vest, was glad to get the season opening win.

“It wasn’t the start we were looking for, but when you’ve got a lot of new faces out there, and your leader is not out there, it’s understandable a little bit,” said Vest of his slow first quarter start. “About halfway through the second quarter, we settled down. I think what jump started us was our defense, we started getting little steals, we started getting the ball inside and got some easy baskets that way, and that opened up the outside.

“I was really proud of them in the third quarter and the first four minutes when we started building momentum and took the lead, and that was probably the turning point in the game, as you could see our confidence rise,” continued Vest. “We still have a lot of growing up to do, but for the first game, it’s always good to have a win.”

Other Lady Eagle scorers included Emma Gentry (13), Ava Travis (8), Emily McClure (4), Skye Tran (4) and Jalese Sharp (2).

The Mustangs jumped out to a 14-7 first quarter lead over the Eagles on Tuesday night, as the Rhea boys battled to overcome that early lead, but Walker Valley used nine 3-pointers and 12 baskets on the night to pull away and secure the win.

Walker Valley led 32-14 at the break and 51-25 after three quarters. The Eagles fought in the fourth, only falling 10-9 in points.

Bryce Dupre led the Eagles in scoring with seven points. Other Rhea scorers included Josh Waldo (5), Amari Roddy (5), Cooper Ruehling (4), Rex Pendergrass (4), Keaton Ray (4), Austin Brackett (3) and Kaleb Martin (2). Ray had 11 rebounds on the night.

First-year Eagle head coach John Walker lauded his team’s effort in the season opener.

“I was very proud of our kids effort,” said Walker. “They played hard and competed on every possession.  We gained some valuable experience and will continue to improve.”

The Eagle teams will host the Harriman Blue Devils on Tuesday, Nov. 24, with varsity only games scheduled for 6 and 7:30 p.m.