With another season of basketball in full swing, the Indian faithful in Chattooga County have had one massive question on their minds; how will their team fair without the offensive firepower of Jay Shropshire and the Foster twins, Isaac and Isaiah. Head Coach Jared Groce has provided a resounding answer to that question in the form of the Red & Black “co-starting” lineups.
While Shropshire and Isaiah Foster moved on to play at the collegiate level, and Foster is (according to all accounts) the Indians all-time leading scorer, Groce’s solution to the problem of replacing a scoring machine that carried the Indians to last year’s Elite 8, has been unorthodox but powerfully convincing.
Groce has a plethora of returning talent and has put it to good use. Implementing a full rotation of starters in the first period, the Indians roll 5 fresh players off the bench early in the opening period and then continue platooning the squads throughout the game. The effect has been tremendous. Over the first five games of the season, the Indians have increased their scoring from 70.4 last year to 83.2 points per game this season. The increase in scoring has been led by junior Jundraius “Nuk Nuk” Adams, who missed most of last year with a hand injury. Adams has rolled up 95 points in the first five games, followed by juniors Clayton Johnson and Devin Price, with 58 points apiece.
The rotation of Red & Black squads had given significant court time to 10 players and the Indians have put up record numbers, including the first 100+ point game for Coach Groce’s young tenure in a 105-72 victory over Region foe, Model Blue Devils.
In addition to the increase in offense, the Indians have also picked up the pace with a well-designed press defense that has stifled opponents. Last year’s team was allowing 61.6 points per game through the first 5 games while going 4-1. This season, Chattooga is 5-0, 4-0 in the region, while allowing only 55.8 points per game.
Last Friday night, the Indians visited cross-County rivals, Trion Bulldogs and practically mirrored their win from last year with a 61-47 victory. Last year’s team won 60-48. The Indians were led by Clayton Johnson with 14 points, including two 3-pointers in the opening period. Johnson went on to sink another 3-pointer in the third. Malachi Jackson and Glenn Walker both sank two shots of their own from beyond the arc. Jackson ended the night with 12 points along with sophomore Jamarious Mosteller who hit 6 of 8 free throws and picked up 12 points of his own.
The Bulldogs were led by Jayce Harris. The 6’5” 200lb Senior was clearly the most fundamentally sound player on the Bulldog lineup and his interior rebounding and ball-handling skills kept the game much closer than many experts predicted. While Harris has all the tools to play at the next level, and he put up 14 points against the Indians, it was junior Blaine Woody whose halftime buzzer-beater shot from 65’ that pulled the Bulldogs to within 9 points and sent a surge through the crowd.
The momentum was short lived for Trion as the Indian rotation left the Bulldogs tired and frustrated late in the third. Chattooga outscored Trion 15-10 in the final period and made it a clean sweep after the girl’s team stunned the crowd with a 41-40 upset of the Lady Dogs earlier in the evening.
Next up for the Indians 6-0, (4-0 Region) will be a Christmas tournament in Alabama against Collinsville with the Indians looking to three peat as tournament champions, while Trion, 4-5 overall (0-3 Region) moves on to face LFO on the 22nd.
“We’re really excited about our team and the great start that we’ve been able to put together this season. It’s been a lot of fun seeing different guys stepping up in different games for us. Everyone on the team is capable of putting up points and playing great defense. I think we’ve proven at this point that we can win games in multiple ways. We’ve already improved in some areas where we were struggling at the beginning of the year. The boys are excited and confident, but we’ve got to stay humble and hungry to get better day each day if we want to reach our potential this season,” said Coach Groce.
Photos by: Jerry Lathem