Scots prevail on Senior Day
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
A defense withering enough to bring on paralyzing effects worthy of Winter Storm Nemo and an aggressive attack of the boards were all the Scots needed Sunday to celebrate Senior Day in style and reach the 20-win mark with a 78-55 conference victory over LaGrange.
Maryville College (20-3, 14-2 USA South) held the visiting Lady Panthers scoreless for a 10-minute stretch in the first half and without a field goal for another span of 8:51 to outdistance LaGrange (13-10, 8-8). The Scots led by as many as 19 in the first half after trailing 13-11 and held LC to 28 percent shooting on the afternoon that Maryville honored its five seniors in their last regular season home game.
“The defense was great. The one thing we talked about coming out of the loss to Ferrum was that we didn’t guard in the first half of that game and fell into a big hole,” MC coach Darrin Travillian told The Daily Times. “There was definitely a renewed vigor on the defensive end the last couple of days and people took pride in getting stops. We’re so much better when we do that.”
Maryville took off on a 21-0 run turning a 13-11 deficit into a 19-point lead as LaGrange went scoreless for 9:55 in the first half. When the Lady Panthers answered it was both profound of their potential — the way they battled MC before taking a 76-72 loss in Ga. last month — and the oddities of USAC play. Katie Covington and Caroline Brashear hit back-to-back 3-pointers for LC. MC answered but ended the half on a bizarre call as Tayler Smith came down with a rebound on the inside and Covington went spilling over the senior’s back and on the court. Smith was whistled for both a personal and a technical deadball foul on the one motion, allowing Covington to bury all four free throws before the halftime buzzer.
Maryville didn’t blink and never let the momentum swing out of the half, opening the second on a 11-1 run for a 49-24 lead. From Brashear’s 3 in the first half to a Covington drive in the second, the Lady Panthers went 8:51 without a field goal while MC;s seniors were enjoying their day to shine.
Menard shrugged off the limitations imposed by a bum ankle, opening the half with a drive, a long jumper and a 3-pointer from the right wing on her way to a 22-point Senior Day. The Loudon product finished shooting 6-for-11 and made a game-high six steals.
“She definitely loosened up. She was still in a boot Friday, but she kept saying, ‘Don’t worry coach, I’m going to play.’” Travillian said. “It was a lot like last year in the conference tournament. She had that same tone she had when she told me, “Don’t worry we’re going to win this.’ Yesterday she had enough plays to help us win against Piedmont. Just her presence was important really, against LaGrange she made plays for us and made her shots.”
Every Maryville senior started and scored. Kera Payne added 12 to go with her career-high 18 rebounds. Donja Robbins sank a pair of baseline jumpers for 4 and Elliott connected on a game-opening drive to break the ice. Smith finished with 11 points a seven rebounds as MC owned the boards with a 49-36 advantage.
“They’re an amazing group, when they were freshman I was the assistant coach and I had them almost every day on what we called the white team, which was the term for the second group. The white team would routinely beat the starters in practice. When I took the head coaching job, I knew what I had, I knew they could play,” Travillian said on reflection. “We really came up together. I knew they were the core and we’ve had some other nice players with them the last three years and one of the best compliments I can say of them is that they have incorporated those new players along the way and made them feel part of the flock. When it was Lauren Burnett, seamless, boom right in the groove, Next year when it was Alex Bond, this year Mackenzie Puckett, the same thing. That’s the people they are. They aren’t selfish, in fact they’re selfless, sometimes almost to a fault.”
Puckett continued her impressive conference run as the freshman poured in 17 while Burnett added 7.
The Scots close out the regular season with two road games — at USAC foes Greensboro and Methodist — and need some help to move above the three seed for the USAC tourney as the three-way battle of Top 25 teams at the top enters its final week.
“These seniors have bought into the coaching and playing this style. Outside of my wife and my child, coaching this group has been the blessing of my life. They’ve made me a better coach and pushed me to better. Sometimes they’ve made me look smarter than I am. You don’t have to be brilliant to say ‘Kierra take it the rim or Janell knock down that 17-footer,’ but they really are an amazing group,” Travillian said. “I put off writing anything for Senior day as long as I could because I didn’t want to see an end to this season. We’re not ready to say goodbye, we’re ready to keep winning and keep playing.”
MARYVILLE 78, LAGRANGE 55
LAGRANGE COLLEGE (13-10, 8-8)— Madison McDonald 0-5 0-0 0, Heather Miller 5-16 4-5 15, Katie Covington 6-14 8-10 23, Caroline Brashier 1-6 0-0 3, Kiah Britton 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Pounds 0-0 0-0 0, Kelsey Mitchell 1-4 1-3 3, Ariel Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Alex Wilson 2-4 0-0 5, Hunter Connell 0-2 1-2 1, Morgan McDonald 0-1 0-0 0, Raven Trammell 0-5 0-0 0, Abbey Martin 1-2 0-0 2; PANTHERS 17-61 15-22 55.
MARYVILLE COLLEGE (20-3, 14-2)— Janell Menard 6-11 8-9 22, Kiera Payne 4-12 4-7 12, Donja Robbins 2-4 0-0 4, Ashleigh Elliot 1-3 0-0 2, Tayler Smith 3-6 5-6 11, Alex Bond 0-2 0-0 0, Mackenzie Puckett 7-10 3-4 17, Lailah Farmer 1-1 0-0 3, Lauren Trent 0-0 0-0 0, Shay Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Burnett 2-9 2-2 7, Jordan ballard 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Ruehlen 0-0 0-0 0, Katie Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0; SCOTS 26-58 22-28 78.
HALF— MC 36-23. 3-POINTERS— LC 6-22 (McDonald 0-2, Miller 1-5, Covington 3-4, Brashier 1-5, Johnson 0-1, Wilson 1-2, McDonald 0-1, Trammell 0-2); MC 4-15 (Menard 2-4, Robbins 0-1, Elliot 0-2, Puckett 0-1, Farmer 1-1, Burnett 1-6). REBOUNDS— LC 36 (Miller 8); MC 49 (Payne 18). ASSISTS— LC 5 (Trammell 2); MC 13 (Payne 4). FOULS— LC 23, MC 18. FOULED OUT— LC Covington, LC Johnson. TECHNICAL— MC Smith. ATT— 693.