Note: This story was last updated at 12:25 a.m.
The Oak Ridge Wildcats swept Gibbs at home on Friday, but University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones stole the show.
Although they couldn’t discuss why they were there, Jones and Zach Azzanni, UT wide receivers coach, were at Wildcat Arena on Friday to watch 6-foot-5 junior Tee Higgins. Besides playing basketball well, Higgins is also a wide receiver, defensive back, and kick returner who has committed to play football for the UT Volunteers. He was named Tennessee Titans Mr. Football in November, recognized as Back of the Year in Class 5A.
Jones and Azzanni also attended a Wildcats football game in the fall, when Oak Ridge beat Lenoir City 55-15 on September 18.
When Jones arrived at the basketball game on Friday, the excited student section—many of them dressed in Volunteer orange—began singing “It’s great to be a Tennessee Vol, I said, it’s great to be a Tennessee Vol!”
Jones sat with Oak Ridge Schools teachers and administrators to watch the basketball game, but he also posed for pictures with some fans and autographed hats and magazines for others.
Higgins said he remains committed to UT, and the Friday night game gave the Volunteers football coaches a chance to see him play basketball.
The Wildcats beat Gibbs 76-51, and the Lady Wildcats crushed the Lady Eagles 59-10, a new record for least points allowed by an opposing team. It was the second meeting of the season for both the boys and girls teams.
The excitement over the arrival of Jones on Friday prompted a few people to joke about getting other well-known football coaches to attend Oak Ridge basketball games.
“We found out how to get more students out,” Oak Ridge basketball coach Aaron Green joked.
The Wildcats didn’t have any real high scorers against Gibbs on Friday, but they had three players with 11 each—Higgins and junior guards E.J. Bush and Tajion Jones—and six other players who scored. That’s good balance, which Oak Ridge has had all year, and shows that the Wildcats (25-2, 13-0 District 3-AAA) are being unselfish, Green said.
Broadcasters David Clary and Lucas Forstrom of Prepradio.com said senior point guard Geevantay Gee scored his 700th career point on Friday and picked up his 400th assist on Thursday against Powell. Gee has started almost every game since his sophomore year.
Gibbs (11-12, 4-8) had two players in double digits: DeSanta Smith with 13 and Keith Ownby with 11.
The Lady Wildcats (19-3, 13-0) had just set a record last week for the least points allowed by an opponent: 11. They set a new record on Friday against Gibbs: 10.
“The girls were really excited about that,” Oak Ridge Coach Paige Green said.
“Our offense has been really strong all year,” she said, and the Lady Wildcats have held teams to about 30 points on average.
Green said the decision-making in transition was good on Friday, and the Lady Wildcats were very unselfish. The defense was good too, Green said.
The Lady Wildcats were led by sophomore post Mykia Dowdell, who scored 17 points, and freshman point guard Jada Guinn, who had 12.
Gibbs (4-15, 3-9) had one player who scored four points, and three Lady Eagles added two each.
See photos from the Friday night game and the visit by Jones and Azzanni here.
Clary said both the boys and girls can finish no worse than second in the district, which will earn them a bye at the district tournament. Both teams are the only undefeated teams in District 3-AAA, although the Campbell County girls have only lost one district game. That was to Oak Ridge.
The Wildcats won’t play again until Friday, February 5, when they take on Karns again for the second time this season. The girls game starts at 6 p.m. February 5, and the boys game begins at 7:30.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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