Lady Cougars Edged in district action
The meeting between the sixth-seeded Rector Lady Cougars and the seventh-seeded Lady Red Devils of Augusta in the first round of the 2A-3 District Tournament at Marmaduke Tuesday, Feb. 12 was a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck contest which gave every person in the Chester A. Barner, Sr. Gymnasium at MHS their money's worth. Unfortunately for the girls in blue, the Lady Cougars would fall in the contest, 65-64.
The Lady Cougars tied the game at 63-63 with 16.8 seconds left to play on a catch-and-shoot three-pointer by Kendal Gunn from the right corner. Gunn caught the pass on the play from Bekah Scott, who inbounded the ball from the Rector baseline. Gunn had tipped away an Augusta pass the possession prior, which pinballed out-of-bounds after last touching a Lady Red Devil, giving the ball back to Rector. After Gunn's triple, Kristen Smart tipped and came away with the Augusta inbound pass. Smart was fouled immediately after the steal, and would make the first of two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining, giving Rector a 64-63 advantage, much to the delight of a dominantly pro-Rector crowd. Coming back from a timeout, the second free throw bounced out, landing in the hands of Augusta's Gabby Scales. Scales would go coast-to-coast, launching an eight foot runner which fell perfectly through the net as the final horn sounded, giving the Lady Red Devils the victory, 65-64, in stunning fashion.
Rector spent most of the night nipping at Augusta's heels, trailing throughout much of the contest, but never by more than three possessions. As the game wound down, the Lady Cougars seemed poised to come back and leave with the victory. Augusta had a chance to all but ice the game with under a minute left, leading 61-56 and heading to the line for two free throws with 42.3 seconds remaining. Both free throws missed the mark, but Augusta had position down low for the rebound. The loose ball went of the Lady Red Devils, giving possession back to Rector. Kendal Gunn buried a three-pointer with 35 seconds to go, bringing the Lady Cougars within four, 63-59. Again, Augusta came up empty at the line. Scott hit one of two from the stripe for Rector with 21 seconds remaining, bringing the Lady Cougars within three points, 63-60, allowing Gunn's big triple to tie the contest.
Augusta led after each break: 18-17; 36-33 and 55-51.
Gunn shouldered the load on offense for the Lady Cougars, leading all scorers with 36 points. The talented junior sank seven three-pointers on the night, with none bigger than her late-game efforts. Scott also scored in double figures, netting 11 points. Also scoring for the Lady Cougars were senior Kaitlyn Essman 6, Smart 4, Brittany Fair 4 and Anna Blackshare 3.
Eshundria Gant notched 30 points for Augusta, who would fall to Marked Tree the following night. Scales added 13 on the night.
Gunn and Blackshare were named All-Conference for the Lady Cougars, and were recognized following the district championship meeting between Marmaduke and BIC Friday night.
The loss brought the Lady Cougars' season to a close. The contest marked the final game for seniors Kaitlyn Essman and Ashley Arnold.
"We're going to miss Kaitlyn and Ashley," RHS coach Matt Dean said of his seniors. "Kaitlyn is a tough player who always gives her best effort. Ashley didn't see a lot of minutes, but she's one of those kids who shows up every day and works hard in practice and just does the little things that help a team. They're both outstanding people who are going to move forward and do good things."