Lady Cougars are NEA Division Champs
The Rector Lady Cougars beat Palestine-Wheatley in the Division I title game of the NEA Tournament on Friday, Dec. 28. The RHS girls notched the fourth NEA title in program history with a cakewalk of a win, 42-20 over the Lady Patriots. Monday night they posted their first conference win of the season, as they beat Sloan-Hendrix on a late basket.
The Lady Cougars had little trouble getting past Palestine-Wheatley in their NEA final, jumping to a 12-2 lead by the end of the first quarter thanks to a strong defense. The Lady Patriots cut the lead some in the second, as the Rector girls led 20-11 at the break.
The third quarter also saw a strong defensive effort by the Cougars, as they pushed the lead to 32-14 going into the fourth quarter. Down the stretch the Rector inside game came alive, as they held on for the 22 point win.
Lady Cougar Coach Mitchell Weber, who had played in the NEA during his days at RHS, reflected on his first title as coach.
“ In the first round we went into overtime, and that kind of scared me a little bit,” he recalled. “We played a very athletic Marked Tree team and got out of there with a win by four. Then we played a very well-coached Manila team and won that one by two—despite being up 18 or 20 points early.”
As far as the championship game was concerned, the second year coach was pleased with the effort.
“I felt like we just controlled the game today in the championship. Any time you hold someone to just 20 points in a senior high game that's quite a accomplishment,” he explained. “And, that's just testament to how hard my girls work”
Weber also noted the adjustments made in the second half also served the squad well.
“They went to a triangle and two, and kind of face-guarded Ellie and Kena and I felt Gabby, Sawyer and Micheala did a good job of either drawing them to the rim and getting shots inside the paint, or getting offensive rebounds and getting to the free-throw line,” he observed. “We didn't panic when they threw that junk defense at us, but it was a big key for us in the second half to get the ball into the paint.”
For their efforts, Clark, Ford, Parrish and Reints were all named to the All-Tournament team for Division I.
Monday evening all teams were in action as the Lady Cougars hosted Sloan-Hendrix in conference play and swept the night. In the varsity contest, the RHS girls led throughout only to see the Lady Greyhounds make a late charge.
The Rector girls pushed to a narrow lead in the first quarter, and enjoyed an 11-8 advantage after one. The two swapped baskets in the second, with the home team maintaining the three-point lead as they went into the locker room ahead 25-22.
The Lady Cougars outscored the SH squad 13-11 in the third, as they took a 38-33 lead into the fourth. But, the Lady Greyhounds pushed back late in the contest, and tied the game at 48-48. Providing the heroics for RHS was junior guard Ellie Ford, as she hit a jump shot at the buzzer to break the tie and give the girls in blue a 50-48 conference win.
Parrish led the squad with 19, Clark was also in double figures with 13 and Ford's late shot gave her 10 points in the win.
In the earlier games, the Rector seventh grade squad posted a 24-7 win over their visitors. In the junior high game, the RHS girls won 50-32 behind 14 points from Madison Wolfenbarger and 12 from Olivia Sutherland.
The Rector girls are scheduled to host the Riverside Lady Rebels in conference play Thursday, Jan. 10, and will travel to Monette to take on the Lady Mustangs of BIC in conference action the following Thursday, Jan. 17.