By Ben Hanneman
SWT Sports Writer
The free throw and turnover fingers that can be oh so fickle on the hardwood poked the Pulaski Lady Cougars in the proverbial eye Tuesday night in a 54-45 loss to the Lord Botetourt Cavaliers in Pulaski.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Cougars, normally decent from the charity stripe, made just one of four shots from the line. They finished the game with just 10 of 22 from the free throw stripe.
Chelsea Golden made two of four free throws, Carlie Clary chipped in five of nine from the line, and the Cougars’ leading scorer Meredith Mitchell poured in two of three. She finished with 13 points overall.
“Those girls are really, really good free throw shooters. We just had an off night,” said Coach Jason Grubb. “And I think there was a little bit of fatigue setting in. You’d like to have some of those back, but we had plenty of opportunities.”
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers, an area top-10 team and a better shooting squad from beyond the three-point line so far this season, made seven of 15 free throws – all in the fourth quarter – to ice the game down the stretch.
And the turnovers didn’t help either. All told, Pulaski committed 18 miscues, including two in the final three minutes as they desperately tried to get the ball inside where they had a definite size advantage in the post. The last turnover led to a layup as the game clock expired.
“We had a lot of good looks in the fourth quarter at the basket. We just couldn’t get a couple shots to drop and we turned the ball over a couple of times looking for post feeds, but we just overthrew the ball a couple of times in transition. If we get a few of those the game is different,” Grubb said.
Point guard Jordan Chrisley picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, forcing Grubb to sit her for most of the second half.
Between free-throw and turnover pokes the Cougars did show flashes of decency, breaking the press easier than they did against a much-tougher Floyd squad in the season opener.
“They threw some different looks at us, but our kids handled the press pretty well and shot some layups against the press and that was good to see,” Grubb said.
The Cougars also showed a bit of the three-point threat for the first time this season, connecting on five three-pointers, including three by Golden.
“That was nice. She’s a very talented shooter and we were able to kind of stretch them out a little bit,” Grubb said.
Defensively, Pulaski’s zone all but neutralized a potent long-range shooting attack that had poured in 13 three-pointers in a 20-point victory over James River just last Friday.
“The kids executed well and we covered their shooters pretty well, rebounded well and stuck with them for much of the game,” Grubb said. “Botetourt is a tough team and I think the girls came out and stepped up to the challenge and played well.”
Mitchell led Pulaski with 13 points, followed by Golden with 11 and Clary added nine.
“It was nice to have a balanced scoring attack. We wanted to get Chelsea and Carlie some good looks at the basket and that all starts with dribble penetration. Our guards did a good job getting the ball in and then passing it out to the open shooters,” Grubb said.
Maegan Memitt tossed in six but contributed 12 huge rebounds. Defensively, Chrisley and Tyra Redd logged two steals each. The Cougars (0-2) travel to Galax to face the Maroon Tide Monday, December 10. They will play the next three on the road before returning home to host Galax December 20.