Cougars Notch Another 20 Win Season, Girls Wade Through Tough Conference
The 2012-2013 Rector Cougars basketball team finished the season with a 21-10 record, the third straight season the team has won at least 20 games.
"A lot of that is because of our seniors," head coach Matt Mills said. "I was really pleased with our seniors. They won 20 games all three years they played senior high basketball. There aren't a lot of people who can say that, especially in our conference with the teams we have to play."
In one of the toughest conferences in the state, Rector finished 9-7 in league play this season.
"This is an extremely tough league to play in," Mills said. "Finishing above .500 in our league was quite a feat."
While the Cougars bowed out in the second round of the district tournament, the team's 2011-2012 season remains a high mark for the program.
"I think last season's run to the Final Four will be something these guys, and really our program and our fans, will remember for years to come. I felt like we had several big wins this year, but it just didn't come together the way we wanted it to. This team has nothing to hang its head about, though. We played against some of the best teams this area's seen."
Mills is proud of the efforts of his five seniors.
"This was a great senior group. I think they were as good as any group in the state.
"Mitchell Weber had an outstanding career here. I think he's going to be remembered as one of the best post players to ever play at Rector.
"I think Dillon Shelton will be remembered as one of the best shooters we've ever had at Rector.
"This season, Daniel White proved he was one of the most consistent players on our team. You could count on him every night.
"Tyler Carter was one of the hardest working players I've ever seen. He gave you everything in practice and during the game.
"Jake Scott got a late start, joining as a senior. That said, he had the tools to be a great player and was able to contribute in just his first year.
"All of these guys were special. We're going to miss them, not only for their talents, but also because of the young men they are."
Seniors Shelton and Weber were selected as All-Conference players.
The Rector Lady Cougars finished with a 17-15 overall record and were 6-10 in the competitive 2A-3 conference.
"We had as tough a conference as you'll find anywhere," Rector coach Matt Dean said. "Marmaduke and BIC were in the top five in the state all year long, Marked Tree got in the top 10 and Riverside's in the state tournament. We faced some very good teams on a nightly basis."
Rector had two seniors on a team loaded with juniors and sophomores.
"We're a young team," Dean said. "There are times, against teams like I mentioned, where that lack of experience hurt us. Our two seniors have meant a lot to this team, though.
"Kaitlyn Essman was a great leader for us all year long. She wasn't the flashiest player, but she always seemed to be in the right place when you needed something like a big rebound or a shot. She's a hard worker.
"Ashley Arnold had a scheduling conflict early in the year and didn't practice with us at school the first semester. Despite that, she still managed to help us with her work in practice later in the year. She's a great kid who contributed to this team."
On the court, the Lady Cougars were led by juniors Kendal Gunn and Anna Blackshare. Both were chosen as All-Conference. Kristen Smart and Bailey Haney joined Blackshare and Gunn on the All-NEA Tournament team.
"We've got a big group of juniors and sophomores coming back next year," Dean said. "We'll have six or seven back who started for us at different times this year. Hopefully, we can build on this and make a good run next season."