Loss concludes an impressive 22-7 season
On March 7, The Maryville College Lady Scots’ season came to a close in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament in a 67-43 loss to the University of Texas-Tyler. The loss put the Scots at an impressive 22-7 record for the season.
The Scots hit the ground rolling this season, coming off of a stellar 24-5 season in 2012-13. After graduating several talented seniors, the Scots looked to new players to lead them to another excellent season. Seniors Lauren Burnett (11.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG) and Lailah Farmer (7.0 PPG, 4.0 APG) served as the new source of experience and leadership for the Scots, but there were still many questions as to who else would step up to make an impact this season.
“We lost a great core group of seniors last year… with such a big group leaving us, we had to figure out a lot of roles on the team,” said Farmer, senior point-guard for the Scots. “In the summer, we didn’t know who would start for us, and there were a lot of question marks.”
The Scots’ experience level was a definite concern entering the year, having only five upperclassmen on the roster.
“We depended on the underclassmen to mature very quickly,” Farmer said. “Though, when it came time, every person that got called upon to step up did exactly that.”
The underclassmen called on most frequently was Mackenzie Puckett. The sophomore forward emerged as the Scots’ most dominant force this season, averaging 14.5 PPG and 6.4 RPG while shooting 50.9% from the field, earning her a spot on the NACB All-American Honorable Mention list. Puckett was also awarded as the USA South Player of the Year and named to the All-South Region team, despite a season-ending ACL tear with eight games to go.
Though Puckett led the team in scoring and rebounding, she felt the leadership in their senior backcourt led the team most.
“What didn’t the seniors do for us?” Puckett said. “Lailah and Lauren were our rocks this season… throughout the entire preseason, season and postseason, these two girls were always remaining positive, pushing us and supporting us, and gave us points, assists, rebounds or steals when we needed them most.”
The Scots’ youth showed very little when the season began, as they coasted to a 7-2 record before conference play began. After a loss to Ferrum on Jan. 3, the Scots raised their game to a new level. They won their next 11 conference games, ensuring a high seed in the conference tournament. They finished the season with a 13-3 record in the USA South and defeated teams by an 18.3 average margin of victory.
Puckett attributed a large part of their success to head coach Darrin Travillian.
“Coach T’s focus on defense is what kept us going,” Puckett said. “There were games that our shots were just not falling, but because our defense was so strong we stayed in games and won.”
The Scots held opponents to 39.1% from the field and just 55.6 PPG.
The team was the top seed in the USA South North Division entering the USA South Conference Tournament. They came away with victories in the first two rounds of the tournament before losing in the finals to Ferrum, the top seed in the USA South North Division.
While a loss in the conference finals was disappointing, the Scots had to remain focused. Their first-place record in the USA South earned them an NCAA Tournament bid, and they were scheduled to play Texas-Tyler in the first-round. The Scots injury plagued roster was outsized by Texas-Tyler, getting outrebounded 36-19 and concluding the season with a 67-43 loss.
“I am most proud of our team for fighting through all the adversity we faced,” said Puckett. “I tore my ACL with eight games to go, and that same weekend Linley got sick, then two weeks later Mindy tore her ACL. The awesome thing is that we still managed to finish as regular season champs, made it to the conference championship game, and made it to the NCAA tournament. We met all of our goals, despite the setbacks.”
Considering these setbacks, the team’s achievements were beyond impressive, and say a great deal about the mentality of the program.
We hold each other to a high standard in this program,” Farmer said. “Our coach wants us to be accountable both on and off the court. That means not only playing your hardest in games and practice, but keeping good grades and keeping a good reputation on campus and in the community.”
Farmer and Burnett leave the program after having a great deal of success in their careers.
“I will always be proud to have been a small part of such a successful program,” Farmer said. “In my time here, I was a part of more than 100 wins, five regular season conference championships, two conference tournament championships, four NCAA Tournament appearances, and had the privilege of playing alongside three All-Americans. I can say confidently that success on the court has become a lifestyle for me. I’ve been extremely lucky and only hope for more success for the team.”
The Scots look to live up to Farmer’s hopes as they move toward next season. In order to continue their success, the Scots must bounce back from their injury plagued season.
“The main thing right now is for us to get healthy and stay that way,” Puckett said. “Along with that, we need to get stronger, faster and be the aggressor. Our mentality this summer has to be that we are preparing for another tough season, and we want to come out as the victors every time we step on the court.”