Blount Press Row

No Doubting This Thomas

Sophomore guard breaks out as Heritage ends three-game slide

Leah Thomas cuts to the basket against West on Tuesday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Knoxville – Watch out for this Thomas kid.

Jordan Johnson gets to the lane.

Each time West pulled close again Tuesday night, Heritage sophomore guard Leah Thomas knifed to the basket for a layup or popped a jumper in the lane.

The end result was a game-high 15 points as the Lady Mountaineers put the brakes on a three-game skid with a 56-44, District 4AAA win over the Lady Rebels.

“We don’t lose three games in a row very often at Heritage,” Lady Mountaineer coach Rick Howard said. “It’s been a rough stretch. We’re just happy to get some kids back healthy and get a win.”

The triplets, senior Kathryn Pryor, sophomore Kassi Knight and freshman Katie Wolfe, each 5-foot-11, had a solid night around the basket for the Lady Mountaineers (11-6, 3-4), with Pryor and Knight finishing with 13 points each.

Kassi Knight pulls up for two against West.

Wolfe tossed in five off the bench. Pryor raked off a game-best eight rebounds.

The difference in the game, however, was the play of point guard Jordan Johnson and Thomas on the perimeter. Johnson hit Heritage’s lone 3 en route to finishing with five points, directing the offense with three assists. Thomas put up a line both compelling and unique, all at the same time.

Not one of her field goals was a 3-pointer, a mix of mid-range jump shots and drives indicative of a strong, all-court scorer. All the way back after losing 14 pounds from a battle with the flu over Christmas, her play changes the dynamic for the Lady Mountaineers.

“It was awful,” Thomas said. “I feel like a brand new person.”

Heritage went right after a smaller West team in the post, Knight and Pryor the driving force in a 16-8 lead after a quarter.

“We have a strong post, and they’re tough to defend,” Johnson said. “When they’re hot, we definitely get it to them.”

As the Lady Rebels stepped up sending the double team, Thomas and Johnson took full advantage. Heritage pushed the lead out to 31-18 at the half.

“We’re hoping to peak at the right time and have the inside game and the outside game,” Knight said. “That way everybody can grow.”

Kathryn Pryor busts a jumper from the baseline.

West, paced by Bri Tate’s 13 points, including a trey, stormed back within a bucket, 37-35, with only seconds to play in the third. Foul trouble for Knight and junior forward Bethany Massey played a key role.

On cue, Thomas was fouled on a drive to the basket, delivering two free throws to break a two-minute scoring drought for the Lady Mountaineers.

The post game returned to the start the fourth. With Johnson providing a steady hand against the Lady Rebel press, Heritage pushed the lead out to 48-37 in three minutes.

 

 

 

 

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