Lady Eagles avenge last year’s title loss to Holston

By Ken Lay

Gibbs Middle School’s girls basketball team had to wait nearly an entire calendar year to exact a little revenge.

The Lady Eagles were finally able to avenge a loss in last year’s Knox County Middle School Conference Class AA Tournament to Holston.

In doing so, Gibbs won the 2024 tournament championship with a 44-25 victory over the Lady Hurricanes Thursday night at Cedar Bluff Middle School in a rematch of last year’s title showdown.

The Lady Eagles (22-1) defeated the Lady Hurricanes during the regular season and posted a perfect league record, and Thursday’s win was Gibbs Middle’s 21st consecutive victory after it lost to Halls in the second round of the Emory Road Classic in October.

“I would say that our girls have had this one circled on their calendars for a long time,” Gibbs coach C.H. Qualls said.

Gibbs has now been open for five years, but Holston (along with Halls) once served as a primary feeder school for Gibbs High.

However, Qualls noted that while the Gibbs-Holston rivalry remains a bit intact, the Lady Hurricanes are not the Lady Eagles’ primary rival.

“It’s a rivalry, and it’s a big rivalry only because it’s a district game,” he said. “The Halls and Carter games are much more personal.”

Gibbs led from the outset Thursday night, opening a 19-4 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Lady Eagles held a 27-14 advantage at halftime as the Lady Hurricanes outscored them, 10-8, in the second stanza.

Holston made a run in the third frame and narrowed the gap to 32-25 heading into the final six minutes of the contest.

But Gibbs rapidly restored order as it held the Lady Hurricanes scoreless in the fourth quarter and closed the game with a flourish and a 12-0 run. Qualls said he instructed his team to go back to basics to close out the contest.

The Lady Eagles heeded their coach’s advice.

“I told them at the end of the third quarter that (the Lady Hurricanes) made their run and we withstood it,” Qualls said. “I told them that they needed to find a way to go out and win the game like they had all year.

“It wasn’t about the school or the rivalry and it wasn’t about the championship. It was about the game. I told them that they needed to play our brand of Lady Eagles’ basketball and we would find a way to win the game.”

They did.

Gibbs hit the boards to win the rebounding battle and stepped up its defensive intensity and that propelled the Lady Eagles into the win column once again.

Gibbs boasted a balanced scoring attack. Rebeka Spierdowis, a seventh grader led the way with 12 points. Victoria Grubbs had nine. Ella Wilkerson and Karsyn Qualls added seven points each, while Faith Hayes and Annie Buckner finished with five apiece.

Jyree Shepard led the Lady Hurricanes with 11 points.

Semifinals Results: The Lady Eagles advanced to the championship game with a 48-26 win over Vine in Wednesday’s semifinals and Holston defeated Carter.

All-Tournament Team: Spierdowis, Hayes and Karsyn Qualls made the all-tournament team for Gibbs. They were joined on the squad by Shepard and Englynn Douglass of Holston.