By Ben Hanneman
Lights-out shooting by their guests and a roller coaster defensive performance by the home team cost the Pulaski Lady Cougars a chance at their second win of the season Friday as they dropped a 55-48 decision to Cave Spring in the River Ridge District opener.
The Knights, not typically known for outside shooting, hit some 65 percent of their shots, most of which were midrange jumpers inside the three-point line. They were scoreless from beyond the arch.
Meanwhile, the Cougars, whose offense feeds off the defense at least this year, started strong, remaining within a point of the Knights in the first quarter. They built a six-point lead at one point on the second, but then as the defense sputtered the offensive unit went ice cold and remained frigid until the middle of the third quarter. Pulaski struggled to shoot 27 percent in the first half.
“That was rough part of the game for us,” said head coach Jason Grubb. “We didn’t get out on their shooters. Maybe it was just a lack of energy, I don’t really know why, but we just weren’t hustling to the ball.”
The Cougars finished the night shooting 46 percent overall from the floor.
Later in the game, the Cougars, down 16 points late, did battle back with key layups to cut the deficit to three with under a minute remaining. From there, though, having to foul in hopes the Knights would miss free throws proved the difference in the game.
“We had an opportunity to get back in it, but we just couldn’t,” Grubb said. “Our kids had given ultimate effort to get it that close. We were playing good defense and had good ball pressure, but we couldn’t get that one steal or basket that we needed.”
The loss was disappointing for Grubb and company, especially since they’ve been so focused on district play, calling Friday’s game “the most important of the season.” Nonetheless, Grubb remains optimistic based on the positive aspects of Friday’s results.
“I think we played pretty good at times,” said head coach Jason Grubb. “I think that we started the game strong, and we finished the game strong. But right in the middle we didn’t play as well as we had been. We found out that we can potentially beat this team, but we have to put together a complete game for 32 minutes.”
Meredith Mitchell led the Cougars with a season best 21 points, keeping pace with the game’s leading scorer Hailey Sitze who poured in 22 to help Cave Spring roll up its fourth win of the year.
“Meredith’s a talented ball player and she continues to impress us. She’s surprised a lot of people, but to me she’s just playing to her potential. I’ve seen this all along, preseason, whatever, and I think she’ll continue to put up big numbers,” Grubb said.
Grubb also praised Tyra Redd in part for her four points against Cave Spring, but more so for her tireless behind-the-scenes work.
“Tyra had a really good practice on Thursday. She was playing really well in practice and I complimented her. She had great intensity, great hustle, she was making her shots, and she got out there and played really well in the game too. She’s starting to play with more confidence,” Grubb said.
Pulaski travels to Christiansburg Tuesday before returning home Wednesday to host Carroll County. They’ll finish the week at home Friday against Hidden Valley.