Pulaski plays Blacksburg for third place on Thursday
By CODY DALTON
SALEM – The Lady Cougar basketball team’s quest to repeat as River Ridge District Tournament Champions came up short on Tuesday, when they lost to top-seeded Salem, 49-29, on the road. The Cougars now meet Blacksburg on Thursday for third place.
“Salem is great team and they played well tonight,” said Cougars coach Jason Grubb. “Our kids played hard, but we just couldn’t find the bucket enough. Shooting percentage was way down. We were 22 percent overall, 38 percent from the free throw line, and 14 percent from the three-point line. We were rusty. So tomorrow, we are going to get out, practice, and do some shooting to get ready for our next game.”
In the first half, it was a lack of shooting accuracy by both teams that made it extremely low scoring. Pulaski’s Elizabeth Thacker would score the opening basket of the game, but Salem would answer with seven consecutive points to take an early lead.
The Spartans would lead 10-6 after the low scoring first quarter.
The pace of the game was being dictated by the Cougars, who deviated from a high octane offense and went to a set offensive attack. That created many fouls and allowed free throw opportunities for Pulaski.
Those free chances would evade the Cougars though in the first half, as they were just 3-for-11 from the charity stripe. However, the Salem margin was just a manageable six points, 18-12, at halftime.
“We came out and played well in the first half,” Grubb said. “It was a little bit of a sloppy game both ways as far as scoring goes. We didn’t have a whole lot of success scoring around the rim and neither did they. At halftime, we were down by six. We felt good about that in the locker room. We weren’t celebrating, but we felt like we were in position to make a run at them."
However, the Spartans would quickly take charge of the game offensively. Bre Kawa connected on a three-pointer to open the quarter and Alexius Patterson converted on a three-point play after being fouled on a lay up attempt.
Pulaski would continue to push throughout the third quarter and pulled to within nine points after sophomore Daisy Ball created her own three point play opportunity. The Spartans still extended their advantage in the quarter though and led 34-23.
Salem would start out the fourth quarter with five out of the first six scores. All five of those scores were from different Salem players as well. While their offense was scoring, the Spartan defense was doing their job as well, as they forced 25 Cougar turnovers in the game, many of which led to scores. Pulaski also shot just 22.7 percent from the field in the game. That helped Salem advance to the Friday’s championship game with the victory.
“In the second half, we played hard, but didn’t make our shots and they had some success behind the arc, which extended our defense out a little bit,” Grubb said. “It was a very physical game. I think the physicality kept us from finishing our shots a little bit.”
Daisy Ball led the Cougars with nine points and 10 rebounds, with eight of those rebounds being offensive. Raiven Patterson and Kasey Holcomb both added five points each for Pulaski.
The Cougars now face Blacksburg High School in the third place game before opening up action in the Region IV playoffs. The Bruins were edged by Hidden Valley, 45-39, in the other district semi-final.
“All we can do is put it behind us and look forward to Blacksburg,” Grubb said. “We have a consolation game against Blacksburg on Thursday. I think we are pretty confident we can go out and get a victory against Blacksburg and get ready for a run at regionals.”