The Pisgah varsity girls basketball team entered a battle of No. 1-ranked teams at Skyline with as many losses this season as the program had the previous three seasons combined (five).
That has led to some questions for the tradition-rich program that won the last three Class 3A state titles before dropping to 2A this season.
“There’s been a big question mark this year. That question mark’s been about their level of determination,” said Pisgah head coach Carey Ellison. “We’ve heard that were not hustling, playing soft. We’ve just been harping on our effort for four quarters. A big part of that is crashing the boards and just playing faster. I’ve been trying to drive that home that we’ve got to have everybody playing hard, playing with energy and enthusiasm.”
Class 2A No. 1-ranked Pisgah (10-5) answered those questions the way Ellison hoped it would Tuesday night during a 65-49 win over 1A No. 1-ranked Skyline (13-5).
“I felt like we had that energy and enthusiasm tonight,” Ellison said. “We’ve got to carry it over day by day. Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson that we’ve got to bring it every night.”
The win was Pisgah’s 51st consecutive victory against fellow Jackson County teams. The Eagles’ last in-county defeat was a loss at Scottsboro on Jan. 27, 2015.
Meanwhile, the setback ended Skyline’s 23-game home winning streak. The Vikings’ last loss on their home court was to Madison County on Jan. 15, 2019.
Skyline coach Ronnie McCarver’s team shot just 7 of 35 from the 3-point arc, including 2 for 18 in the first half, and were outrebounded by the Eagles, who grabbed 24 offensive rebounds.
“We’re so small and they killed us on the board,” McCarver said. “They outhustled us to all the loose balls. We usually can turn teams over more, but we were getting so lost (in the press). I don’t know, maybe it’s just Pisgah. Pisgah, they show up, and we just go crazy. We haven’t played like that all year.”
Skyline missed their first five 3-point shot attempts while Pisgah was hot early, building a 9-2 lead after Kennedy Barron’s three-point play. The Eagles, who never trailed, led 13-10 after one quarter before stretching their lead to double digits at 30-20 on two Kallie Tinker free throws with 1:22 left in the half. After Gracie Stucky sank a 3-pointer for Skyline 13 seconds later, Pisgah closed the half on 8-0 run on Tinker’s basket, Karlee Holcomb’s 3-point play after Emma Ellison’s steal and Molly Heard’s look-ahead pass and Tinker’s 3-pointer with 12.8 second to go until halftime.
“That (run) was really important, gave us some extra (momentum),” Carey Ellison said.
Pisgah’s lead never dipped lower than 11 points in the second half. The Eagles, who were in front 53-37 after three quarters, led by as many as 19 points at one point.
Three Pisgah players had double-doubles. Tinker closed with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Barron had 11 points, 12 rebounds and four steals and Heard had 10 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Bella Bobo totaled 10 points, eight rebounds and two assists while Holcomb had eight points and two assists and Emma Ellison had seven rebounds.
Aidan Bellomy led Skyline with 14 points while Gracie Stucky had 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Vikings also got eight points from Gracie Rowell and six from Kenzie Manning.