The Pulaski County girls basketball team was shorthanded. Two of its best players and most of its inside strength, Ally Fleener and Taryn Blankenship started the season on the bench. Both with knee injuries. So the lineup was much shorter, much smaller and the team fell at Carroll County, the team they beat in the state semi-final a season ago. So there were concerns.
Those concerns do not appear valid. The Cougar girls won big time at Christiansburg and playing against one of the most respected girls programs in this region of the state, blew out Floyd at home Thursday evening, 65-42. Fleenor did get to see her first action of the season and appeared to have played well. Blankenship remained sidelined until likely the first of the new year.
It was a spirited first quarter. The Cougars were up two, 18-16 and they could thank Paige Huff for that. The young freshman hit five of 10 first quarter shots, two of them 3s for 12 points.
In the second quarter Floyd could not keep pace. After missing seven consecutive shots, Pulaski Co. set the nets on fire. Hanna Walson scored inside off a nice feed from Alaina Akers, Huff hit from three again, then Akers hit a driving basket, and Huff bombed in another from long range and suddenly with 4:24 left in the half, the Cougars were up 31-16 and sailing along. The score was 35-23 at the half.
From the beginning of the second quarter to the end of the game, Pulaski Co. outscored the Bullaloes 47-26. The turnovers weren’t bad either as the Cougars gave the ball away only 15 times. Pulaski Co. hit 25 of 54 shots, 46.3 percent, and nine of 16 from the free throw line.
Huff, who began the game hotter than a two-dollar pistol, finished with a game and career high 25 points, but she’s still just a freshman. Maddie Ratcdliff who had an outstanding floor game from her point guard position fininshed with 13 points, and Akers 10. Fleenor in her first action, roughly three minutes each quarter, did not miss a shot and scored eight.
Huff was 10 of 21 from the field with five 3s for her 25. She did not make a trip to the charity line. Ratcliff was five of nine and two of four for 13, Akers was four of seven and two of four for her 10. Fleenor was three of three from the floor and hit both free throws for eight points. Keslyn Secrist was two of five for four, Courtney Cregger and Walson both had two, and Erin Russell hit one of two free throws for a point. Alexsis Kiser led Floyd with 12, and Riley Spangler scored eight.
Cougar head coach Brad Suthphin was obviously satisfied with his team’s performance. “In the opener at Carroll we had physical problems without Alley and Taryn (Blankenship) and weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do and we weren’t prepared to play a good team and that’s my fault. Against Christiansburg we did an excellent job controlling tempo, and we really played hard. We talk as a team all the time about playing with great energy and effort, and we did that tonight too against Floyd.,” said Sutphin.
The coach also feels like things will continue to get better. “Our shot selection improved a little tonight. We’ve got some girls than can shoot it, and we can score in bunches, but we need to watch and not be too quick on the trigger.”
The team has assets, and key players, and a way to sit things in motion. “Maddie is our motor. She keeps pushing things. Ally was good her first time out tonight. Probably real good when you think that was her first real action in five months. She will need some time to get in playing shape, but just getting out there in the action and getting bumped around will help her a great deal. I was pleased. Taryn is still probably a couple weeks out, but we know everything is going to be okay and she will get to play. She is very anxious, but getting both our inside players 100 percent is a huge key for this team. We need to keep a lot of players contributing. I feel good about where we’re going,” added Sutphin.
The Cougar girls host Carroll County Saturday with JV playing at 1:30 and varsity at 4:30.
Pulaski County boys will host Radford tonight., with JV at 5:30, Varsity to Follow. That game is on as scheduled.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot
Top photo caption: Pulaski County senior guard Maddie Radcliff drives for two in win over Floyd. (Brian Bishop photo)