By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain jumped to a 9-0 lead Friday and coasted to a 55-44 Mountain Six Conference women’s basketball victory over East Henderson on Senior Night at the SM gym.
Natalie Parris scored 17 points for the Lady Mustangs (12-9, 5-4). Lucy McRae added 12, and Kevonna Tushka had 10.
“We really talked about working on the defensive end,” Coach Ollin Dunford said. “It’s amazing how the defense has sparked our offensive output. We had three girls score in double digits for the second straight game. I’m extremely proud of their effort. We continued to play with intensity.”
He cited Melanie Hoyle for her interior defense.
“It’s so exciting and heart-warming,” said Tushka, one of four seniors, of winning on Senior Night. “I knew we were going to come out with a bang, and we sure enough did. Over the past couple of days we’ve really come together as a team, and we’ve started expressing more about having heart and playing with fight. I truly believe we have done that the last couple of games.”
Tushka scored the game’s first four points, and Parris had the next five for the 9-0 lead.
The Lady Eagles didn’t score until 10 seconds left in the first quarter when Sontee Moore, who had 27 points, hit a three-pointer leaving the deficit 9-3.
Parris and McRae both scored four points in a 13-2 spurt for a 28-11 advantage on Aubrie Miller’s basket with 49 seconds to play in the half.
SM led 28-15 at intermission.
McRae’s three-point play gave the Lady Mustangs a 35-19 lead with 4:25 to play in the third period.
They were up 40-24 at the quarter break when Tushka scored as time expired.
The game’s largest lead was 46-26 on Parris’ basket at the 6:24 mark.
Parris made seven field goals, including a three-pointer, and two of two foul shots. McRae connected on four field goals, including a trey, and three free throws. Tushka scored all her points from the floor.
Hoyle and Macy Wike both scored five points, Miller and Julianna Welch had two apiece, and Ashton Buchanan and Allison Macke each hit a foul shot.
The Lady Mustang JVs are 16-2 after a 45-8 rout. They shut out East in the first and third periods.
Alisha Hall scored 14 points.
SM led at quarter breaks by scores of 19-0, 30-4 and 36-4.
“We played great,” Coach Jason Melvin said. “It didn’t matter who was on the floor, our intensity level never dropped and the girls gave 100 percent in every aspect of the game. Since we didn’t have school, I was worried we would be a little off because our schedule/routine was different, but they proved me wrong. We were very efficient with our shots, our defense was stifling and our passing is getting better every time we step on the court. We have consistently improved all season, and we are starting to peak at the right time.”