Nobody has mistaken West Lincoln as a basketball powerhouse in recent years, but that thought process could soon change. The Rebels JV program went 16-3 this season and donâ€™t forget the Lady Chiefs of the middle school.
The Chiefs won the Eastern Division of the Tri-County Conference compiling a 14-0 regular season record. Their unblemished record earned them a chance to compete in the championship game versus Shelby.
Despite their 42-32 loss, head coach Mia Cooke was proud of her girlsâ€™ effort and play in the title Tri-County Championship game.
â€œEven though we lost, I felt like it was the best we had played all season. Those girls were just tall and fast. That made it a tough match-up,â€ she said.
The Chiefs did overcome a monumental challengeâ€”beating Kings Mountain. Cooke believes thatâ€™s something they can remember for years to come.
â€œI was very impressed with how well they all came together and played good team basketball. The girls only lost two games last year and that was against Kings Mountain and we finally beat them this year. Thatâ€™s an accomplishment they can be very proud of,â€ she said.
Kayda Caldwell led the Chiefs with 13 points per game to lead the team. Whitney Ellis and Beth Pittman averaged eight and six respectively. Cooke felt all three brought different facets to the game.
â€œBeth was one of the top defenders for the girls. Kayda was our main option in the post. She could come out and shoot threes too. Whitney did a good job getting the ball inside and both of them (Whitney and Beth) also set picks to get other players open,â€ she said.
Other eighth graders were: Laura Barrett, Nicki Walker, Jordan Gantt, Shelby Gilmore, Elizabeth Stoffa and Ashley Workman. According to their coach, each girl had an impact on the team.
â€œThey all their high points throughout the season, stepping up and scoring when need be,â€ she said.
Cooke believes Rick Rose, coach of the JV team, will be very pleased with whatâ€™s headed his way next year.
â€œI look for five or six of them to be of a big help to the JV team. Theyâ€™ll have upcoming ninth-graders that will be able to fill the holes of the 10th graders that will be joining the varsity,â€ she said.
Ashley Rhyne, Chelsea Perry, Beth Qualls and Amber Willard were the only seventh graders on the squad. Cooke looks for them to anchor her team next season.
â€œWith only four seventh graders, itâ€™s going to be a challenge to repeat the type of success we found this season, but I believe the returnees will be up to it,â€ she said.
The Chiefs had victories over Pumpkin Center, East Lincoln and Lincolnton to their credit. They beat both East Lincoln and Pumpkin Center thrice on the season, due to their participation in the second annual Buck Dellinger Tournament.
Cooke believes the Lady Falcons will be the team to beat next season in the Tri-County Conference with so much returning talent, led by post-player Lindsey Wright and guard Kiandra Long. Throw in a solid coach and the Falcons could run the table next season.
by John Mark Brooks