By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
WEST POINT —
The end of 2012 could’ve been a bit nicer to the West Point girls basketball team.
With a 44-35 home victory over Holly Pond on Friday, it appears 2013 is off to a much better start.
Madison Rusk carried her squad with 17 points in the paint and Kari Williams pitched in 11 to help the Warriors upset Class 3A’s No. 6 ballclub in impressive fashion.
“It was a great way to start the year,” West Point coach Regina Jones said. “We played two really good games last week when we got out for Christmas, and they picked up where they left off, so I was proud of them.”
Jones was pleased to see timely contributions from one her smallest players on the court in Williams, as well as her tallest in Rusk. Williams carried the weight in the first half with nine points, and Rusk dominated the second with 13.
Every time the Broncos tried to close the gap late, Rusk was there with an answer, closing the door on a comeback by the Warriors’ county rival.
“Our teammates look for her, and she does help us out inside,” Jones said. “They knew to get the ball to her when she was scoring.”
As memorable as the night was for West Point, Holly Pond will surely want to forget it in a hurry. The Broncos only mustered two points in the first quarter, missed their fair share of layups and inside shots and had their press picked apart by the Warriors’ offense all night.
Taylor Terry shone for Holly Pond by leading all scorers with 20 points — she had all nine of the team’s fourth-quarter points — but the Broncos received little help from anyone else. Meg Gambrill added six points, Natasha Holcombe was limited to four, Kaitlyn Stephens was good for three and Taylor Rowell had two.
After opening the season 14-2, highly ranked Holly Pond has dropped two of its last three contests heading into next Monday’s road game against Good Hope.
While the Broncos (15-4) battle through their recent slide, the Warriors are trending slightly upward. They’ve improved to 7-9 with wins in their last two games.
Behind Rusk and Williams in scoring were Rachel Persall with five points, Alex Baggett and Mallory Walker with four apiece and Jamie Beasley with three.
“We struggled a little bit early, but we emphasized keeping positive and getting better every game,” Jones said. “And the girls really have. We’re hitting some shot now that we didn’t hit earlier in the season.”
West Point will host Fairview on Tuesday.
% Holly Pond 66, West Point 51: Once the sixth-ranked Broncos turned on the jets, they sure were hard to slow down.
Austin Smith and Colby Adams led the way with 14 points each, and Gunter Morris had an inspired 12-point performance in a game Holly Pond literally ran away with in the second quarter. The Broncos (14-4) created multiple turnovers and took advantage of the ensuing fast-break baskets to pull ahead after the Warriors (13-6) had brought the score within a single point.
“We feel great on the fast break,” Morris said. “When we’re going good, nobody’s going to stop us.”
Holly Pond was without head coach Mitch Morris, who was released from the hospital only two hours before gametime after being admitted over the holiday break. Some teams would struggle in similar situations, but the Broncos never missed a beat.
“I haven’t seen him all week, so I knew I had to do something for him,” said Gunter, Coach Morris’ son.
Holly Pond’s Jacob Cahoon ended the night on a strong note with eight of his nine points in the fourth quarter. Vince Clingman looked sharp with six points, Cody Jones, Carter Hays and Blane Black all had three points, and Ben Wilson posted two.
The loss overshadowed a superb shooting night by West Point’s Kris Keller, who wound up with 17 points. Wesley Smith was next in line with 12.
Other Warrior contributors were Jordan McKenzie and Tristan Dubberly, six points apiece; Nick Nuss, five; Austin Ray, three; and Ryder Jones, two.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.