Kayla Cook scored 38 points to lead South Webster to its 67-57 home victory over Valley on Thursday. The win, coupled with a Minford loss to West, gave the Lady Jeeps (15-5, 10-4) an outright second place finish in the SOC II this season.
“It feels amazing,” South Webster head coach Kristie Johnson said. “I think there were quite a few people who didn’t think we would be that high in the SOC and I think a lot of girls really took that to heart at the beginning of the season. They worked their tails off all season and, with the help of West, we were able to get second by ourselves in the SOC and we’re thrilled with it.”
The contest was also the Jeeps’ last regular season game, meaning their seniors were suiting up at home for the final time.
“It was senior night and all five seniors said coming in that we were determined to win our last game on this court,” Cook said. “I was just going to do whatever I had to do for us to get a ‘W’ tonight.”
Cook did what it took early, scoring 18 of her points in the first half, and late, going 6-for-8 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, to lead her team to victory.
It was quite a week for Cook, who eclipsed the 2,000 claimed the South Webster all-time scoring record Monday, was announced as a McDonald’s All-American nominee and then led all scorers on senior night as the group of seniors won their last home game.
“Words can’t describe how this week has been,” Cook said. “It’s been an amazing week... I couldn’t do this all myself and I’m not taking credit because it takes a team to win.”
Entering the fourth quarter, South Webster was holding on to an 11-point edge, but the Lady Indians came roaring back. Valley started the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to bring the team back within three, but could not overcome the deficit in a game it did not lead after the opening moments.
“It was just a tremendous run by our girls,” Valley coach Mark Merritt said. “We never gave up all night. That’s the one thing we’ve been talking about for the tournament run. We need to forget about past games. We just need to continue to get better and put 100 percent on the floor.”
Whitney Bear led the Lady Indians with 19 points, adding three deflections and four steals. Jordan Arbaugh scored 13 with nine rebounds. Merritt commended the defensive efforts of Carrie Coriell and Michelle Mains’ distribution of the ball from her point guard position (seven assists).
South Webster freshman Kaci Messer made a jumper from the baseline to end the run, then Cook took over scoring the Jeeps’ last eight points.
“Cook, what can you say?” Johnson asked. “She’s an All-American and has just played her heart out. She’s led our team from the first game her freshman year. She’s been our leader. She’s been our captain. She’s been the one we look to when we need big plays and she pulled through tonight and did some great things.”
Messer came off the bench to score 12 points for the Lady Jeeps. Kendra Clark, a senior, made a pair of 3’s en route to scoring nine points while Katie Hanes pulled down 10 rebounds to lead all players.
The loss dropped Valley (10-5, 9-5) into a third-place tie with Minford in the final SOC II standings. With a pair of non-conference games remaining, the Lady Indians can take some things from this game as they move forward.
“We were in the game all the way through,” Merritt said. “It was a pretty good effort on our part tonight because I think they played as well as they can play and we hung right in there with them until the end. Hopefully we’re getting better for the tournament and we can always take some pluses out of this game.”
Valley’s next contest will be at Chesapeake on Saturday. The Lady Jeeps will open tournament play next Thursday at Athens High School against South Gallia.
Before stepping forward to tournament play, Cook reminisced about her four years of basketball at South Webster.
“I don’t even know where to start to thank everybody,” she said. “I want to thank Coach Johnson for everything she’s done for me the last four years. It’s been an honor to play for her... I want to thank my parents and teammates for all their support all these years. It’s just been an honor to represent South Webster High School.”
CHRIS DUNHAM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Valley 10 23 12 12 — 57
South Webster 17 22 16 11 — 67
Valley — Bear 7 4 19, Arbaugh 4 5 13, Mains 4 0 9, Cox 4 0 8, Coriell 2 0 5, Crabtree 1 1 3. Totals 22 10 57.
South Webster — Cook 11 15 38, Messer 5 0 12, Clark 3 1 9, Hanes 1 3 5, Queen 1 0 3. Totals 21 19 67.
3-pointers — Valley 3 (Mains, Bear, Coriell); South Webster 6 (Cook, Messer 2, Clark 2, Queen)
Records — Valley 12-5 (9-5); South Webster 15-5 (10-4)