Members of the Lady Cougar basketball team went about their business with renewed optimism in Monday’s shootout at York Comprehensive High School.
YCHS girls’ head coach Paula Blackwell coordinates the event, which has become a huge draw in the Upstate. Varsity games were in the main gym and JV action in the auxiliary gym.
Monday was no exception to the participation in previous years, with the likes of Dutch Fork, Andrew Jackson, North Gaston, Palmetto and Clover participating in the bonanza.
While Blackwell was pleased with the continued success, she also lauded the Lady Cougar players for their performance.
“Our kids showed a lot of improvement compared to this time last year,” she said. “Our guards are scoring. They are willing to take the outside shot.”
She also said sophomores Heather Pumphrey and Keisha McClure are becoming a presence in the post area.
“I like what Heather and Keisha are doing around the basket,” Blackwell said.
“Carrie Lee will be joining the mix soon,” Blackwell said of Carrie Lee Lancaster, a two-time all-region post player who is entering her senior season.
“The kids have better court awareness. The players are developing the swagger it takes, finding success, learning to play with a lead.
“There are a lot of positives about the shootout experience.”
The Lady Cougars opened the shootout with a 26-8 win over Dutch Fork B.
The Dutch Fork varsity starters are three-time defending state champions in 4A classification.
The YCHS girls gained the advantage in the opening quarter against Dutch Fork B, highlighted by McClure’s monster scoring move to the basket that pushed the Lady Cougars ahead 7-0.
The second quarter was more of the same, with Meg McGarity’s outside shooting and Makala Love’s drive to the hoop off the steal leading the offensive surge.
The YCHS team lost a down-to-the-wire, 30-29 nail-biter to Andrew Jackson, with the Lady Volunteers holding on for the win in the final seconds.
Love, a swift-of-foot point guard with big-play capabilities, talked about the team’s renewed confidence after the game.
“We’re a better team this year,” Love said. “I have improved my game. I want to push myself to contribute more to the team. I want to be a leader.”
Love said she’s working on her game to pass the ball better.
“The key to the team’s success is better communication, and better defensive play,” she said. “We need to stay positive when we’re up or down.”
Pumphrey, who at 5-foot-8 is a physical presence under the basket, is a student of the game.
“It is important for Carrie Lee, Keisha ad me to work on the fundamentals of post play,” she said.
Pumphrey said she has individual goals for the coming season.
“I want to improve my post play to complement Carrie Lee,” she said. “I want to work on rebounding and passing the ball.
Pumphrey noted that she’s averaging 10 rebounds per game playing for a York AAU team.
“I will continue to work hard to become a force under the boards,” she said.
Blackwell marveled at the number of teams that return to the shootout. “A good many of the teams email me in March, wanting to participate in the shootout.”
Blackwell uses the shootout and other June basketball activities, including a weekend at UNCC, as a measuring stick to determine how serious the players are about Lady Cougar basketball.
“We find out who really wants to play,” she said.
Blackwell said hosting an event like the shootout has its advantages. “We stay at home by hosting the two-day shootout,” she said. “There are no travel expenses.”