We somehow managed to get through fall sports without much difficulty and the much-awaited high school basketball season started in Hamilton County on Tuesday with a handful of contests on the schedule.
Three teams gathered at Ooltewah’s Edward M. Foster Gymnasium to play two games each in Hall of Champions contests, nobody knowing for sure how long the current season might last. It was an odd atmosphere to say the least with no cheerleaders and less than 50 spectators scattered across the upper level, so there were times when it was deathly quiet in an otherwise noisy gymnasium.
The host Owls squared off against Signal Mountain in the first game with the Owls claiming a 48-38 victory.
Signal Mountain bounced back with a 54-41 win over Marion County in the second game while the Owls prevailed by an 83-53 margin over the Warriors in the third game.
It’s been a topsy-turvy pre-season to say the least as different teams in the area have been hit by positive cases of the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to practices being suspended and pre-season preparation being disrupted.
The general feeling on Tuesday was that everyone was getting to play someone other than themselves and a bit of celebration was enjoyed just being able to play, not being guaranteed additional contests.
Ooltewah coach Eric Ford said that his team had been doing some productive work in pre-season workouts until a two-week quarantine threw a wrench into that progress.
The Owls had only practiced three times before Tuesday’s game and it showed at times, but the Owls also showed that they have some talented athletes who could really be good if everything materializes according to plan.
“That was some ugly basketball” Ford said shortly after the first game with Signal Mountain ended.
“We had some really good pre-season work, but all of that was basically lost when we had to take 14 days off. We’ve practiced for three days and it showed today.
“I was pleased with the effort, but not so much with the execution. We were ready to play at the start, but the newness had worn over and we got kind of lackadaisical in the second and third quarters. We still have a whole lot to work on, but we have some guys who can play and we have a chance to be pretty good.
“I’m just glad we could play here today,” Ford added with a smile.
Signal Mountain coach Steven Redman has a youthful squad with not a whole lot of veteran experience, but again, they have the potential to be better than average if everything works out.
“We struggled to score and our transition defense was terrible,” Redman assessed the first game loss to Ooltewah.
“We gave up way too many easy baskets. I thought we played much better in the second half. We cut their lead down to three points, but turned around and gave up seven unanswered points.
“This was a good chance for us to play somebody other than ourselves and that’s a good thing, but we still have a lot of questions to answer,” he nodded.
Chris Styles bagged a couple of 3 pointers at the start as Ooltewah built a 14-8 lead when the first quarter ended.
The Owls extended that lead to 21-8 with seven straight points to start the second period before the Eagles finished the half on a 6-0 run, concluding with a 3 from the key by Carson Johnson just ahead of the halftime buzzer, to be within 21-14 at the break.
Deleon Petty scored on a layup following a steal with 2:59 left in the third to give the Owls a 10-point spread at 28-18 before the Eagles cut that lead in half by the end of the quarter, sparked by four-straight points from Braeden Wolford in the final minute.
Signal Mountain cut Ooltewah’s lead to three points twice in the final eight minutes, the last time at 30-27 with 6:40 to play following a short baseline jumper by Jermaine Stinson.
But just as quickly, the Owls scored seven straight points in the next 90 seconds and it never got much closer.
Ooltewah’s biggest lead of the game was 15 points at 44-29 with 3:10 to play following a baseline jumper by Petty.
Petty scored 15 points to lead the Owls offensively and was one of three Ooltewah players in double figures.
A.J. Hyndman was next with 12 while Chris Styles added 10.
Wolford was the only Signal Mountain player in double figures against Ooltewah as he finished with 11 points to match his team-high 11 rebounds as the Eagles had an unofficial 35-27 edge on the boards.
Luke Alexander and Stinson both had four caroms for Signal Mountain while Styles had six for Ooltewah and Petty four.
Wolford scored 25 points in the win against Marion County while freshman Ben Timblin came off the bench to score 14.
Petty was also the scoring leader for the Owls against Marion with 16 points while Styles and Hyndman both followed with 14.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 8 6 9 15 -- 38
OOLTEWAH 14 7 7 20 -- 48
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (38) – A. Matukewicz 2, Burns 7, M. Johnson 2, L. Matukewicz 1, Novak, Wolford 11, Ottley 4, C. Johnson 4, Stinson 4, Alexander 2, Menzel 1.
OOLTEWAH (48) – Corbin 2, Petty 15, Laster 2, McGee, Ivey, Styles 10, Griffin 2, McClurkin 2, Sims 3, Johnson, Hyndman 12, Chambliss.
3-POINT GOALS: Signal Mountain 1 (C. Johnson); Ooltewah 3 (Styles 2, Hyndman).
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)