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Lady Cougar stats impressive despite youth

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

To say that the Lady Cougar basketball program has seen a fair share of success the past two seasons would be an understatement. What they’ve actually accomplished and who they’ve accomplished it with, however, is even more impressive.

 

Pulaski County ended the 2018-19 season with a loss in the Group 4A state title game. Despite the loss, making it to the dance is a huge accomplishment for any team. That accomplishment was even more impressive when you realize who led the way for that squad.

 

There were only two seniors on that team. Alicia Noble and Mary Catherine Martin were outstanding teammates who each provided valuable services to the team, either in practice or during game action. Neither of them, with the exception of senior night, were regular starters. Noble had the most playing time of the two, mainly due to her defensive efforts and ability to move the ball.

 

In that state title game last season, Pulaski County started no seniors. The starters that day were three juniors, Kassidy Secrist, Maddie Ratcliff and Alaina Akers, along with freshmen Ally Fleenor and Taryn Blankenship.

 

Those players are all back this season, along with a strong group of other players who were on that squad and two others who were playing middle school and JV ball last season. Freshmen Paige Huff and Keslyn Secrist have both been huge parts of the Lady Cougar success formula this season. Both have had their turns at being the leading scorer throughout the season.

 

Statistically, the year hasn’t been bad for the Lady Cougars.

 

Senior Maddie Ratcliff has scored 293 points to date and has played in all 26 of the Pulaski County games. She has made 83 of 184 shots overall for just over 45% accuracy from the field. She has also hit 64 of 90 free-throws for 71%. She has added 88 rebounds, 101 assists, 61 steals and has 16 blocked shots. Ratcliff reached the 1,000-point mark of her career last week during the district playoff game against Blacksburg.

 

Freshman Keslyn Secrist has done a phenomenal job in her first year of varsity ball. The younger Secrist sister has scored 278 points in 26 games, an average of 10.7 points per game. She has been good for 29 of 37 free-throws, 110 of 200 shots from the field and a truly impressive 29 of 60 from three-point range. She has added 117 rebounds, 52 assists, 33 steals and eight blocked shots. Not too bad for a young lady who was making plans for the eighth-grade dance last year.

 

Sophomore Ally Fleenor was forced to miss the first few games of the season due to an offseason injury, but despite missing those two games she has put up 258 points. Fleenor has hit 97 of 196 shots from the field, eight of 22 from three-point range and 56 of 79 free-throws (70.88%). She has 193 rebounds, 32 assists, 17 steals and 14 blocked shots.

 

The fourth Lady Cougar to surpass the 200-point mark is freshman Paige Huff. In 26 games, Huff has put up 210 points. She has hit 83 of 256 from the field but has hit 38 of 144 three-pointers. With some improved accuracy, Huff will be an even more dangerous weapon next season. She has added 44 rebounds, 20 assists and 22 steals.

 

Senior Alaina Akers is next up with 114 points. While Akers scoring is a good thing, her true value lies in the leadership and calming factor she provides on the floor and her aggressive defensive play. She has hit 37 of 137 from the field, 13 of 71 from three-point range and 29 of 40 from the charity stripe. She has also added 60 rebounds, 37 assists, 40 steals and a blocked shot.

 

Sophomore Erin Russell is the last Lady Cougar in triple digits for the season with 109 points. She has been good for 37 of 108 from the field, nine of 40 from long distance and 26 of 44 from the free-throw line. She has also added 47 rebounds, 33 assists, 30 steals and four blocked shots.

 

Sophomore Taryn Blankenship was hindered by an injury longer than Fleenor, forcing her to miss several more games at the start of the season. In 21 games she has scored 95 points, hitting 34 of 77 from the field and 27 of 45 from the free-throw line. She has 86 rebounds, 21 assists, 22 steals and 12 blocked shots. She continues to improve each game and is expected to be a huge contributor next season.

 

Sophomore Courtney Cregger has continued to shine through the season, improving each game, and has put up 85 points so far. She has hit 31 of 66 from the field and 23 of 36 from the free-throw line. She has added 87 rebounds, 14 assists, 10 steals and three blocks.

 

Senior Kassidy Secrist has continued to help lead the younger members of the squad, putting up 63 points. She has hit 26 of 74 from the field and six of 29 foul shots. She has 65 rebounds, 12 assists, 13 steals and five blocks.

 

Senior Hanna Walson is best known for her rebounding and defensive efforts, but she has still put up 42 points hitting 21 of 44 from the field. She has added 84 rebounds, nine assists and 22 steals.

 

Junior Aubrey O’Dell has hit eight points on four of 10 shots from the field. She also has seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.

 

Senior Bailley Nash rounds out the team with eight points on four of 17 from the field. She also has three rebounds.

 

As a team, the Lady Cougars have done well but as usual with any team, there is room for improvement. They have only hit 40.9% total from the field and just 46.3% from two-point range. Lady Cougars have been good for 28.6% of their three-point shots. While Head Coach Bradley Sutphin would like to see even more from the free-throw line, Pulaski County has made good on 65.3% of their foul shots.

 

The team has 311 offensive rebounds and 570 defensive rebounds to bring the total to 881. There have been 334 assists, 271 steals and 64 blocked shots. The Lady Cougars have scored 1,565 points while giving up 1,202.

 

The outcome of the game Friday in Lynchburg against E.C. Glass will determine, as we reported Wednesday, where the Lady Cougars play next. If they win, they’ll host the winner of the loser of the Region 4C championship between Millbrook and Loudoun Valley at Christiansburg High School. If they were to fall Friday in Lynchburg, they would travel to play the winner of that game. The Millbrook Pioneers are 26-0 heading into that title game. The Loudoun Valley Vikings, who the Lady Cougars defeated in the state quarterfinals last season, are now 21-0 heading into Friday night’s matchup.

 

On the other side of the state, things seem to be just as tough. Hampton (22-1) will play Lake Taylor (18-5) and Kings Fork (18-5) will play Grafton (22-1) to decide who comes out as the one and two seed in Region A.

 

Region B is a bit more complicated as they have more teams in the mix, meaning they’ll be playing their region title game Monday, March 2. A quick look at the teams still in the mix in that tournament includes King George (20-4), Hanover (21-1), Eastern View (21-5) and Monacan (21-2). Those four teams will be facing off Friday before their region title game Monday.

 

Be sure to visit our website and Facebook page Friday night to find out the outcome of the Lady Cougar matchup and what their next step will be.

 

The VHSL Group 4A Girls State Championship game is scheduled for Friday, March 13, at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond.

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