By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Graduating seven seniors for his championship 2011-12 team, Rick Sullivan knew this season would be a learning experience for his Fayette Academy Lady Vikings.
And the veteran coach’s 2012-13 journey got tougher just 20 minutes into the season when senior Emily Reeves went down with a season-ending ACL injury. Entering the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Gymnasium last Thursday night, Reeves on the bench supporting her teammates looking to reach .500 in league play. And with a 63-42 win over the host Lady Rebels, Fayette Academy improved to 13-7 overall and 4-4 in league play.
“The process had been going pretty well,” Lady Viking junior center Margy Westbrook said. “We’re learning to mesh together and work more as a team.”
After road struggles this season, Sullivan wanted to see his team pick up a win in an opposing gym over a quality opponent. And things were shaky for the first 16 minutes with Fayette Academy ahead 25-22 at the break.
The play of Westbrook paced Fayette Academy to the narrow lead. To start the third quarter Westbrook made a three-point play to make the score 28-22. Then Westbrook hit another bucket in lane making the score 30-22.
Lady Rebel Taylor Beasley kept TRA close with a three-pointer making the deficit five points. Then with Westbrook heading to the bench in foul trouble it seemed like the perfect time for the Lady Rebels to go on a run.
Instead the Lady Vikings proceeded with a 17-7 run to close out the third quarter ahead 47-32.
Lady Vikings guard Amber Johnson moved over from her shooting guard spot to play a little No. 1. Running the point, Johnson hit open teammates like Kayli Skelton, Holly Slocum and Rebekah Moffatt for shots.
Then Johnson took matters into her own hands with drives to the basket and stepping back to hit a triple that made the score 41-29.
“She came out and hit some really big threes and made some really big drives,” Westbrook noted. “She would get me the ball. It was just a really good effort all around.
“It felt really good to see my teammates step up because I know they can do it especially when they’re playing hard,” she added.
TRA didn’t give up coming out with a 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter. Lady Rebel Head Coach Shari Armour said the Fayette game was her team’s best overall effort of the season.
The late run illustrated that including two three-pointers from sophomore Bethany Berger. The Lady Rebels trimmed the Fayette lead to 49-42.
But Slocum ended the TRA run with a layup. Then Westbrook and Johnson worked a designed give-and-go play for a Johnson layup.
By the time Westbrook scored on a put-back bucket and made a three-point play, the score was 58-42.
“I do see myself growing as a center,” Westbrook said. “But it’s definitely because of the help coming from my teammates.”
Westbrook finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. The junior said this year’s Lady Vikings know the rich history of Coach Sullivan’s program and hope to make some magic starting next month.
“We can make a nice run in February,” she concluded. “We’ve just got to keep playing hard and working hard at practice.”