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  • Travis Dockery

HHS basketball review: No need for panic

(Photo by Kelli Graves) Every team member of the 2021-2022 state championship Yellow Jacket team were on hand for unveiling of the championship banner.

With the Christmas break pressing pause on the high school basketball season, it gives us a chance too evaluate the performances so far for all four of Hayesville High School's basketball teams. This season has seen every emotion across the board.


(Photo by Kelli Graves) Asher Brown draws a foul against Hiwassee Dam as he goes up for the layup.

Even after winning the state championship last season, the Hayesville Yellow Jackets were still being overlooked by some. Losing the dynamic duo of Kolbe Ashe and Jake McTaggart was no doubt a big hit for the Jackets, but this team has shown the program is still in good shape. After winning the season-opener over Blue Ridge, Hayesville suffered its first loss since the 2020-2021 season when Franklin left The Hive with 41-36 victory.

The Jackets got back in the win column, winning their next four games including an overtime thriller against Murphy. In their final game before the break, the Jackets travelled to Cherokee where they lost an offensive battle by the final of 82-74.

Dropping a Smoky Mountain Conference game caused some to panic. There's no need. It's not very often that a high school team scores 74 points and still loses. Cherokee's entire basketball program is strong. Last season's undefeated record spoiled some Jacket fans. More often than not, losing is eminent.

This team is not the same team as last year, but that doesn't mean they can't win. Against Highlands, the Jackets rained down three-pointers, showing their shooting ability. When Hiwassee Dam came to town, the three-ball wasn't falling, so the Jackets drove to the basket and fed their guys down low to generate an offensive attack and win.

The Yellow Jackets are very much still in the hunt for a SMC championship and have all the tools needed to make another deep run into the state tournament. How deep? Time will tell.


(Photo by Kelli Graves) Emma Ashe goes for a lose ball against Swain.

Youth has been the story of the varsity Lady Jacket's season so far. With only two seniors on the roster, Hayesville's young squad has experienced growing pains. Going 0-3 through the first trio of games was made better when Hayesville picked up a decisive 31-15 win over rival Murphy. The Lady Jackets then got SMC win number two with a 41-36 victory over Swain County. The pre-break portion of the season ended with a pair of losses from the hands of Hiwassee Dam and Cherokee.

A team with four freshmen and four sophomores on an 11-person roster is bound to have its struggles. However, the Lady Jackets are already showing more confidence and understanding than was seen in week one. Coach Chad McClure and his staff are starting to find player groups that click and players are beginning to understand their roles in schemes.

The good news is, the conference is very even this season. So far, Cherokee seems to be the class of the field, but a top three conference finish is a possibility for the Lady Jackets.


(Photo by Kelli Graves) The JV Jackets mob Will Brown after late-game heroics.

For the JV Jackets, it has been an emotional start to the season. Disastrous first halves have put them in holes too big to climb out of and late game charges have resulted in victory. A 29-point loss to Murphy was followed by a heartbreaking 2-point loss to Swain County. The JV team entered the Christmas break on a high note with a thrilling 54-52 victory over Cherokee.

There is no doubt talent on this team, it just needs leadership on the floor. Coach Will Penland and his assistants to a great job of rotating players in order to keep fresh legs on the floor, but communication among players can sometimes fall through. If the JV Jackets find their voice and get control of a turnover problem, this team could make some noise down the stretch and in the SMC tournament.


(Photo by Kelli Graves) Lilly Dockery eyes a pass as the Lady Jackets take on Cherokee.

Unfortunately, the team that needs the most court time has seen action the least. The JV Lady Yellow Jackets have less than a handful of players on the roster that have ever even been on the court. Two of those players haven't played since youth league. High school basketball is a challenge for even the most experienced player. Learning the basics of the game while competing against players who've played their entire lives is like drinking from a firehose.

JV girls basketball seems to be on a downward spiral. Many schools don't have a team this year which has led to the Lady Jackets just playing 3 games. After being blown out by Franklin, the Lady Jackets had a strong game against Swain, coming within 11 points of a win. Against Cherokee, a full-court press was too much for the Lady Jackets to overcome.

Having four freshmen and four sophomores on varsity has forced JV coach Meghan McQuade to play inexperienced players before they are necessarily ready. It's kind of like being thrown out of a boat and told to learn to swim. On a bright note, those players who might not normally get a lot of playing time are gaining experience. The goal for this team is to simply have a better understanding of the game and the ability to run plays successfully by season's end.

There is still a lot of basketball left to play. Jacket Nation has always been one of the most supportive fanbases in the area and no doubt will continue to cheer on their teams as we start 2023.

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