SMHS girls searching for competitive edge

Jan. 4—Mike Buck will be the first one to say how proud he is of his Stone Memorial High School girls basketball team. The Lady Panthers are just under .500 at 7-8 on the season, and recently returned from a tournament in Florida where they won two of three games.

Stone Memorial does a lot well this year, but Buck has been preaching for some time to his team about competitiveness, finding a way to win. Are the Lady Panthers ready to battle every time they take the floor?

That question came into play Tuesday night when the Lady Panthers dropped a 74-46 home decision to Cookeville. The Lady Cavs consistently beat Stone Memorial down the court on runouts to get layups and cruise to the easy win.

"[Assistant] coach [Matt Troino] mentioned before the game that we looked kind of dead in warmups. We had no energy," Buck said after the game. "I am struggling to find positive things to say about people who don't compete all the time.

"When they put their uniform on, when they tie their shoes, they're making a commitment to themselves, to their family, to their sisters who they're about to go compete with, to their coaches, to their school.

"They're making a commitment. It should matter. Go compete. Nobody has ever been successful at anything by not competing, not trying your best."

Cookeville came out swinging right from the opening tip. Cara Lee Gilbert and Emma Harper scored on several runouts in the first period as the Lady Panthers fell behind 19-6 after the first eight minutes.

Stone Memorial kept fighting and stayed within striking distance, thanks to the play of Kortney Headrick and Adison Howard. Cookeville led 39-21 heading into halftime.

"We have roles when we take a shot," said Buck. "We have go guys, players that go to the boards for the rebound. And we have get-back guys, players that go back to cover the other basket. So the only way to have a runout against us is because they wanted to run the floor and get a bucket more than we wanted to get back. We had get-back guys in place, who are supposed to give all they've got and never get beat down the floor. We were getting beat down the floor."

Stone Memorial came out strong in the second half, getting 3-pointers from Howard, Lily Hinch and Rachel Houston. But it wasn't enough as Cookeville widened its margin to 55-34 as the fourth period began.

"We came into the second half with a couple of things defensively that we felt like gave us some opportunities," Buck said. "We got a little bit of confidence from the 3-pointers, being able to drive and find the open person."

Headrick led Stone in scoring with 15 points on the night. Howard had 13 points and Ashley Whittenburg scored four. Kailee Waldo, Houston and Lexi Gordon scored three points each, while Marley Bowers had two.

Buck sees a lot of potential in his team.

"I have to do a better job of coaching creatively this group of kids," Buck said. "It is definitely on me to get them to see the importance of playing hard. I am failing at getting that message across to them."