By BEN HANNEMAN
Some days you get the bear. Other days bear gets you – or in this case the Spartans.
This past Wednesday, the Salem Spartans handed the Pulaski County Lady Cougars their fifth district loss and second most grizzly defeat overall — in terms of point differential – winning 73-26 in a make-up of a snowed out contest from the previous Friday.
Playing without leading scorer Meredith Mitchell, who suffered a partially broken nose in a tough 57-52 loss Tuesday in Christiansburg, the Cougars struggled from the start, digging an early hole with just four points in the first quarter.
Meantime, the Spartans, by far the River Ridge District favorites for their size, speed and balance, broke the game open with 15 points in the first eight minutes.
Rebounding against the likes of 6’2” post player Tessa Foley and other 5’9” forwards proved the biggest obstacle for Pulaski, especially early. The Spartans scored 21 of their first 30 points by way of offensive put-backs.
Couple the rebounding hardships with rushed shots and tenacious Spartan defense and the Cougars’ scoreboard molehill became a mountain in a hurry.
“Salem is a veteran team with a good mix of size, speed and inside/outside players. They are very balanced and play together well. We were rushing our shots and just not getting good looks at the basket,” said Coach Jason Grubb.
The Cougars picked up the offensive pace a hair in the third, ringing up seven points. But the Spartans played the same song different verse, posting a game-high 22 points after the break.
Then, aided by post players Carly Clary, Maegen Memitt and Hannah Hancock, the Cougars put together an 11-point fourth quarter, while Salem scored just 15.
“Our post players came alive late in the game and provided a big chunk of our scoring,” Grubb said.
The trio combined for all but three of the team’s 26 points. Jordan Chrisley scored the remaining points.
“I hope they keep up the productivity,” Grubb said of his post players.
Clary led the Cougars offensively with 10 points, which is a testament to her tenacity despite being outmatched height wise.
“Carlie played well, she always gives good effort and never backs down,” Grubb said.
Mitchell was expected to be sidelined for the Cougars’ next game at Cave Spring yesterday and may also miss Pulaski’s trip to Hidden Valley next Tuesday.
Despite the tough week, Grubb did his best to encourage his young squad to chalk this one up as a learning experience and move on as quickly as possible.
“I just let them know that the constants must be to play hard and play as a team. If we are doing that then we are giving ourselves an opportunity to compete. We did both of those part of the time last night,” Grubb said.
With the loss Pulaski falls to 2-15 overall and 1-5 in the RRD.