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Girls Basketball: Cougars grab edge in Battlefield
COURTLAND GIRLS STAY UNBEATEN
BEHIND BIG NIGHT FROM McNEAL
BEHIND BIG NIGHT FROM McNEAL
BY JUSTIN RICE
Much has changed with Courtland’s girls basketball team this year.
There’s a new coach—longtime Courtland boys coach J.T. Nino took over during the offseason for Gene Flamm. There’s a shorter bench, with only eight players—three subs to complement four returning starters.
One thing hasn’t changed, though—the Cougars are again the team to beat in the Battlefield District, a fact cemented with Courtland’s 54–45 win against Eastern View last night.
“This is our [returning starters’] third year together,” said Janae McNeal, who had a game-high 31 points against the Cyclones. “We’re really starting to come together as one good cohesive unit.”
Courtland trailed 8–0 in the first seven minutes last night, but it tore off an 11–3 run to tie the game, 11–11, midway through the second quarter.
The Cougars then outscored the Cyclones 15–4 over the next four minutes to take a commanding 26–15 advantage into the break.
“It took a little while to get adjusted,” said Nino, who had to change his lineup because players had missed practices over the Christmas break. “I don’t even think we got adjusted the entire game. That was probably our worst offensive game. But once we got into the flow a little bit, it was like any other game.”
The biggest shift was for McNeal, who usually plays out on the wing. She moved to point guard yesterday and, based on the results, may see more time at that spot as the season continues.
McNeal had 17 points in the second half while Eastern View scrambled to close the gap.
The Cyclones cut the Courtland advantage to six points five times in the final quarter, but four of those runs were answered by either a bucket or free throw from McNeal.
“Her decision making with the ball was fabulous,” Nino said.
She also had 11 rebounds.
Ciara Jackson led Eastern View with 16 points and Taylor Shanks—the Cyclones’ standout forward—was held to just 10. She didn’t have her first basket until the final minute of the first half, scoring on a putback after she grabbed an offensive rebound. Shanks finished with a game-high 19 boards.
“We made her stay off the low block,” Nino said, “and when she did catch it, we committed two or three girls to her so she had to dump it off or kick it out.”
The Cougars’ lack of depth actually may have helped a bit in that regard.
With just two players on the bench last night, Courtland played zone—the first time all season they’ve used that defense.
That helped the Cougars swarm around Shanks whenever the ball came to her.
“We knew a lot of her points were off of the rebounds,” Nino said. “Our main goal was just keeping her off the glass.”
Courtland 3 23 11 17 — 54
Eastern View 8 7 11 19 — 45
Courtland (9–0, 4–0): Anika Trent 5, Janae McNeal 31, Jessica Hairston 9, Imani Fennell 5, Megan Amrhine 4, Ariana Bradley 0. Totals: 20 13–24 54.
Eastern View (6–3, 1–2): Ciara Jackson 16, Tanae Holmes 0, Shirlina Bowles 4, Randi Mauck 4, Tiara Jackson 5, Taylor Shanks 10, Allison Corry 2, Angela Apperson 4, Alexis Yates 0. Totals: 16 11–21 45.
Three-point goals: Courtland 1 (Amrhine). Eastern View 2 (C. Jackson).
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045