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Lady Cougars complete district sweep




David Gravely/SWT – Senior Maddie Ratcliff goes up for two of her 17 points Thursday in Salem.

The day was Dec. 10. That day found the Lady Cougar basketball team taking on the Christiansburg Blue Demons at home in their first River Ridge District game of the season. Pulaski County won that game 87-52 and it could have been much worse. Head Coach Bradley Sutphin took his foot off the gas and played everyone early. It was the right thing to do. Christiansburg is in a rebuilding year and it’s always good to do the right thing and show class.


Fast forward to Thursday, Feb. 13 at Salem High School. Pulaski County had already clinched the River Ridge District regular season championship earlier in the week by defeating Cave Spring 66-48. The Lady Cougars were playing for pride and with the hopes of earning a better seeding in the Region 4D playoffs,which will begin next week.


It was ugly at times, but the Lady Cougars got it done. Pulaski County earned a 70-52 victory over the Spartans to finish the regular season with an overall record of 16-5 and a district record of 12 wins and no losses. This was also the 13th win in a row for Pulaski County. The Lady Cougars will be the top seed in the district tournament, which begins Saturday. Pulaski County will face Blacksburg at 5 p.m. at Patrick Henry High School in the opening round of that tournament.


“Man, we’re just really proud of the girls and the effort they put out tonight and all season,” Lady Cougar Head Coach Bradley Sutphin said. “If you can finish your district schedule up without a loss, that’s a big deal. This district is tough even when there are a few teams rebuilding. This is a big accomplishment for the girls, our program and our school.”


As for the game against Salem, it was what fans have come to expect in a Salem versus Pulaski County matchup in some respects. There were questionable calls and no-calls. The Lady Cougars were called for 23 fouls and Salem was called for just 14. The Lady Cougars were called for 10 fouls quickly in the first half, putting several starters on the bench and putting Salem in the double bonus.


There were times that Pulaski County players were clearly fouled … in some instances it resembled professional wrestling … but no foul was called. It’s a frustrating situation that puts players and coaches on edge. It also puts fans in a mood. In return they let the officials hear about it. With more Pulaski County fans in the Salem High School gymnasium that Salem fans, they were not hard to hear.


To his credit, Coach Sutphin refused to let it be an issue with his team.


“We can’t make excuses,” Sutphin said. “I’m sure some of those fouls were earned, but it’s tough to get in any kind of rhythm when every time you turn around the whistle blows. We need to do whatever we can to stay out of that situation. We have to stay under control and play smart if we want to achieve our goals.”


Pulaski County jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead over the Spartans and never looked back. They led 16-9 at the end of the first quarter and 30-19 at the half. They stretched that lead to 53-37 by the end of the third before cruising to the 70-52 win.


Maddie Ratcliff led the way for Pulaski County with 17 points, one rebound, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot. With those 17 points now in the books, Ratcliff is just 11 points shy of the 1,000-point mark in her career.


Keslyn Secrist added 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal. Hanna Walson scored eight points, grabbed 11 rebounds and two steals. Ally Fleenor scored six, rebounded nine and had two assists. Paige Huff scored six points, earned five rebounds and a steal. Alaina Akers added six points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Taryn Blankenship scored six points and earned three rebounds. Erin Russell scored five points and had three assists and a steal. Courtney Cregger added two points, a rebound and an assist. Kassidy Secrist had two points, three rebounds and a steal.  Fleenor, Kassidy Secrist, Keslyn Secrist and Blankenship finished the game with three fouls each. Cregger finished with four. Those fouls restricted the playing time of each player.


Kennedy Scales led the Spartans with 26 points. McKenzie Moran backed her up with nine.


The junior varsity contest and season did not end the way Head Coach Nancy Quesenberry wanted, as Pulaski County fell by a final score of 34-39. Hailey Capps led the JV squad with 10 points. Jaden Lawson added nine. Tori Vest and Hannah Keefer added four points each. Andi Ratcliff added three. Kenzlee Jones and Brook Goble scored two each. 


The JV team finishes the season with a record of 15-2. During the course of the past three seasons, the JV Lady Cougars have compiled a stellar record of 58 wins and just three losses. They were undefeated at 22-0 during the 2017-18 season. They suffered only one loss, the first game of their season, in the 2018-19 season and were 21-1. That game was played at Carroll County with barely enough players on the team to play. The next game saw the rise of several middle school players to the JV team. They didn’t lose a game after that. This season the team only lost twice, each time in close games to a sophomore heavy Salem team.


The junior varsity team is made up of four eighth graders, two freshmen and one sophomore.


“We’re pretty proud of our JV program,” Sutphin said. “Those girls come to work every day and bust their tails. They make our varsity team better. We’re excited about the future, but we’re also pretty excited about the remainder of this season. From this point we only have two game guaranteed. If we want to keep playing we have to win. We’re going to take it one game at a time.”



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