Jim Case isn’t the only new name Southeast Whitfield basketball fans will get used to this season.
Welcome to the Raiders, Ty Pendley. And welcome back to the court Rhett Harper.
Southeast’s boys team showed Tuesday how much better it could be in 2013-2014 with a season-opening 70-64 loss to a Gilmer squad that reached the Class 4A state tournament last season and returns most of the team, including the Bobcats’ leading scorer.
Pendley, a sophomore, played varsity minutes last season at Northwest Whitfield. In his debut for Southeast, he made seven 3-pointers and led the team with 27 points. Harper, who missed all of the 2012-13 schedule after suffering a knee injury during the football season, finished with 15.
“I knew we’d come out and play hard,” Pendley said. “I think we can play this well every game.”
In the girls game, Gilmer sprinted to a 58-20 victory.
Case was an assistant at Dalton High the previous 11 seasons, the first four as an assistant to then-girls coach Jeff McKinney and the past seven helping boys coach Mike Duffie. He accepted the Southeast head coach job this past May, and Pendley transferred to Southeast this fall.
“His role isn’t just shooting,” Case said. “He did some defensive things. He wants to be a complete player, and that’s why he is here with us. ... He has a great work ethic. He just needs experience.”
Joe Bob Charles, Gilmer’s top scorer last year, matched Pendley’s point total and sank six free throws in the final 1:17 of the game to carry the Bobcats (2-0) to the victory. Gilmer was without one starter — point guard Corey Waters — due to the school’s football team playing in the second round of the state playoffs.
Gilmer coach Jordan Hice said Southeast is much improved from two years ago, the last time these two teams faced. In the previous three years, Southeast combined for a 7-70 record.
“I am definitely expecting big things (this season),” Hice said of his team, “but I know people are gunning for us because they know what we have. ... That’s a totally different Southeast team than I’m used to playing. (Pendley) kept them in the ball game. He’ll be hard to stop.”
Despite not leading beyond the opening quarter, the Raiders followed the Bobcats throughout the game. Gilmer led 54-43 with seven minutes remaining, but Harper and Pendley hit back-to-back 3-pointers to bring Southeast within five points. Southeast’s Hunter Young made two free throws to tie the game, 56-56, with 3:10 left. Gilmer responded with an 11-2 run to take a 67-58 lead. Harper and Pendley each hit one more 3-pointer, but the Bobcats made enough free throws to melt the remaining time on the clock.
“I think we competed,” Case said, “and I’m pleased with the effort. We teach streaks and doing consecutive good things. At the end, we had a spark and scored quick. I called timeout to remind them, ‘This is what we want.’”
Wheeler Lancey also aided Gilmer’s offense. He converted three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points for the Bobcats. His steal and layup gave Gilmer a 19-13 lead with 1:29 left in the opening quarter, which ended with the visitors ahead 21-15. The Raiders cut the deficit to 28-27 on a layup by Harper, but the Bobcats scored four points to end the first half with a 32-27 edge. Gilmer led 52-43 entering the final period.
• Gilmer girls 58, Southeast 20: The Lady Bobcats and Lady Raiders both played their season openers, and Gilmer’s squad got ahead quick and never let Southeast back in the game.
Gilmer led 16-4 after the first quarter and then 27-9 at halftime after Britton Farlow hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left before intermission. Farlow finished with 21 points, second only to Emily Sanford’s 27 points.
The Lady Bobcats led 45-14 through three quarters after another 3-pointer from Farlow. Southeast’s Judelle Herrera led the hosts with six points, and Wendy Perez scored four.
“We had a lot of open shots,” Southeast coach Michael Durham said. “We just didn’t convert. We had some good looks in the first half, and if we don’t convert on them, the score can get out of hand if the other team converts theirs.”
• Polk County (Tenn.) girls 55, Coahulla Creek 38: Macey Fossett, Sydney Storey and Nikki Ross all had nine points for Coahulla Creek, but an early Polk County lead and a hot streak at the free-throw line earned the homestanding Lady Wildcats the win.
It was the season opener for the Lady Colts.
After seeing themselves trailing by double digits for most of the first half, the Lady Colts chipped away at the Lady Wildcats’ lead in the third quarter. But after cutting that lead down to seven heading into the fourth, Polk County hit 13 of 18 shots from the line to outscore Coahulla Creek 19-9.
“It showed that they have already played a couple of games,” Lady Colts coach Ryan Long said. “I was pleased with the rebounds being close with them on totals, but they hit a lot of free throws in the fourth quarter. I was pleased with some of the things that we did.”
Ross led Coahulla Creek with 10 rebounds.
• Polk County boys 44, Coahulla Creek 33: The Colts’ scoring finally showed up toward the end of the third quarter, but by that point it was too late.
Coahulla Creek (0-1) trailed 32-15 heading into the fourth quarter and more than doubled their entire night’s production in the fourth. Taylor Poteet led the team with 14 points, and Andrew Fisher had seven rebounds.
“I wish we had played a scrimmage game because it took us a while to get going,” coach Matthew Queener said.
• Coahulla Creek boys 69, Polk County 32: Tyler Phillips led 11 scorers with 13 points as the Colts (1-0) rolled. Alex Fisher and Austin Tibbs each had 10 points.