Defense has been a calling card for the Cooper women’s basketball team since Arsenio Geter took over the program three years ago. Now he feels like he has a few weapons on offense to make the Lady Cougars even tougher.
He might be right.
Five Cooper players scored in double digits as the Lady Coogs beat Merkel 65-52 in Tuesday’s season opener at Cougar Gym.
Kyla Speights, a 5-foot-3 junior and the team’s offensive leader last year, had a high of 13 points, while newcomers Alliyah Ralston and Karrigan Parrott got 11 and 10, respectively. Jazlyn Hatcher and Kaleigha Kemp both had 10 as well.
Ralston is a 5-2 freshman, while Parrott is a 5-6 junior transfer from Hawley.
“Kyla is always a phenomenon on the field offensively,” said Geter. “So to have these two around to help us out, she doesn’t have to create every shot now. She doesn’t have to create the whole offensive.
Speaking of offense, Cooper sealed the victory with 13 of 16 free throws in the final quarter. Speights succeeded in all six attempts in the fourth quarter, while Parrott succeeded in all four attempts.
“The first three quarters we missed quite a bit,” said Geter, whose team made 23 of 34 free throws in total. “But when it counted, we made it happen.”
Geter said the team is also working on free throws. He said each girl had to take 1,500 shots to earn her place on the team ahead of the season – a third of that number on free throws.
Alyssa O’Malley led Merkel (0-1) with a record 18 points, and Mauldin followed with 17. O’Kelly added 11.
The Class 3A Lady Badgers were trailing 40-39 heading into the last quarter, and it was a five-point game (49-45) before Cooper opened it in the final 4:11 with a run of 16-7. Speights had nine points in the race, while Ralston had five.
“At first I thought we were a little shocked to try to match their intensity in defense,” said Merkel coach Laura Lange. “It’s obviously a very fast, athletic and quick team. They play very aggressive.
Lange was happy his team weathered the storm early and fought to make it a game – trailing by one at the end of the second and third quarters.
“When we started managing possessions and started taking care of the ball and running on offense, we hit back in the game,” Lange said. “Our turnovers got us at the end of the game and then our faults.”
Geter was happy to see his shorthanded side take the win.
“We did seven rotations because we have injured daughters,” Geter said. “We’re still trying to figure out what our list is. But the girls played hard. They play a lot more physically and smarter.
Cooper plays Vernon at 6 p.m. Friday in an out-of-district game at Cougar Gym.
Joey D. Richards covers Abilene High Schools and Colleges, Big Country Schools, and other local sports. Follow him on Twitter at ARN_Joey. If you enjoy local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
Cooper 65, Merkel 52
Merkel… 13… 13… 13… 13 – 52
Cooper… 19… 8… 13… 25 – 65
MERKEL (0-1) – Sydnee Barnes 0 0-0 0, Avery Holloway 1 2-4 5, Micah Holloway 0 1-2 1, Jada O’Kelly 2 7-8 11, Kloe Pursley 0 0-0 0, Kyleigh Mauldin 6 2-4 17, Alyssa O’Malley 5 4-5 18. Totals 14 16-23 52.
COOPER (1-0) – Jazlyn Hatcher 4 2-2 10, Alliyah Ralston 3 3-4 11, Ariona French 3 1-3 7, Asjha Cherry 2 0-1 4, Karrigan Parrott 2 8-6 10, Kyla Speights 2 8-8 13, Kaleigha Kemp 4 2-10 10. Totals 20 23-34 65.
3 point goals – Merkel 8 (A. Holloway1, Mauldin 3, O’Malley 4), Cooper 4 (Ralston 2, Parrott 1, Speights 1). Total fouls – Merkel 22, Cooper 18. Crowd – Merkel: Mr. Holloway, O’Malley; Cooper: None. Technical fouls – Nothing.