Women’s basketball completes historic season
by Skylar Smith
The MC women’s basketball program is at an all-time high. They just raised their 21st NCAA Tournament banner, marking four straight appear- ances since 2012. Their 26-7 record marks the most wins in a single season in the program’s history. They went on a 16-game win streak that stretched from Nov. 22 to Feb. 2 and marked the second-longest streak in team history, and their 15-1 record in USA South play earned them a third- straight USA South Regular Season Divisional Title. And their success is being recognized nation-wide.
On March 27, USA Today Sports released their final top-25 poll, and the Lady Scots ranked no. 15 in the nation.
“It’s been such an exciting year, so this final ranking is a nice acknowl- edgement,” MC head coach Darrin Travillian told mcscots.com. “We put together a historic start to the season, reached several milestones, won a conference title, earned several individual accolades and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This final ranking is a nod to what will always be remembered as one of the finest seasons in the history of this storied program.”
On March 19, Travillian and junior forward Mackenzie Puckett were awarded with national honors.
Travillian was named the WBCA Division III South Region Coach of the Year and a finalist for the National Coach of the Year, which will be announced on April 6 during the Fifth Annual WBCA Awards Show in the Grand Ballroom of the Tampa Marriott Waterside. This is Travillian’s second time receiving the honor. He also earned the first USA South Coach of the Year honors in MC women’s basketball history. In his fifth season with the Scots, Travillian became the fastest coach to win 100 games in the program’s history, doing so in 125 games. His overall record at MC is now 114-30.
Puckett earned her second straight spot on the WBCA Division III All-American Honorable Mentions list along with her second straight All-South Region Team honor. The junior forward averaged 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. She’s been dominant since her arrival at MC, earning USA South Rookie of the Year honors and USA South Player of the Year honors in her previous two seasons respectively. In her career, she has recorded 1,098 points, 457 rebounds, 132 assists, 124 steals and 111 blocks, while shooting 46.9 percent from the field.
Puckett had this to say about the pressure she faces as a leader of the no. 15 ranked Scots: “I don’t really feel that pressure to perform. The team is really supportive, and they just kind of let me play and see what happens. They know that I’m counting on them too. It’s really balanced, and very much of a team focus, which makes individual accolades awesome, but I don’t really feel that pressure.”
Unfortunately, Puckett’s two consecutive All-American honors have been dulled by something troubling—back to back offseason knee surgeries. Puckett tore her ACL against LaGrange toward the end of last season and attempted to play through the final games. The Scots were plagued by injuries and sickness toward the end of that season, but still managed to fight their way into the NCAA Tournament, ultimately losing in the first round. This season, Puckett tore her meniscus in November during practice. Once again, she played through the injury and pushed surgery to the offseason.
When time for surgery came, it became aware that her ACL had been damaged again, along with her meniscus.
“This one’s worse just because it’s the meniscus as well, so it kind of slows down the ACL,” Puckett said. “But, since I know what to expect with my rehab, it’s not as tough mentally.”
Although second knee surgery before the All-American’s senior season would appear to be a major setback, Puckett thinks that the team’s struggle with injuries was one of the main factors that played into their success this season.
“I think the experience toward the end of last season was rough,” Puckett said. “We had so many injuries wear on us. That honestly brought us together, and I think it prepared us for the challenges that we faced this year, and that’s why we ended up with 26 wins.”
The Scots should be just fine if Puckett has a return anything similar to this season’s. The Scots will bring back an array of talented players that will attempt to fill the spots of seniors Alex Bond, Lauren Trent, Linley Dunn and Kelsey Brown.
Alex Bond served as an all-around producer for the Scots. The senior guard averaged 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Trent, a guard as well, averaged 8.1 points and 1.3 assists per game while leading the team with a 41.4 percent three-point efficiency. Dunn and Brown served as key forces in the post, each playing over ten minutes per game.
This year’s seniors have been a part of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and the returners seem prepared to keep that streak alive. Junior guards Jordan Ballard and Joanna Young are expected serve as leaders alongside Puckett next season. Ballard led the team with 4.3 assists per game and averaged 7.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Young, a transfer from Roane State, averaged 4.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Mindy Brackins, a sophomore forward that also underwent knee surgery after the 2013-14 season, played significant time this season and ranked third on the team in scoring with 8.6 points per game. Lecretia Robbins, Kelsey Persinger and Tanginique Nowlin are among the juniors expected to receive increased minutes next season.
This year’s freshman class is full of talent, with center Rachel Hawn leading the way. She started 29 games and anchored the Scots’ play down low, scoring 5.9 points and grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game. Freshman forward Laren Biliter and freshman guards Haley Talbott and Brittany Johnson all received moderate minutes, and that is expected to increase next season.
When asked if there could be any future All-Americans among the underclassmen, Puckett replied, “You never know, because people will surprise you. I wasn’t expecting to be an All-American by any means… But if they work hard enough, I really think someone could do it.”
The Scots have begun offseason workouts and are preparing for their run at a fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, but that’s not all Puckett has in mind for her senior season. She expressed that she wants to win the USA South Conference Tournament Championship and make it to the Sweet Sixteen. She still has four weeks left in a knee brace before she can begin to build her range of motion back. She joked that this is now her, “summer routine.” She’ll be spending the summer rehabilitating at home, in Franklin, Tenn., but plans to come back with the same determination that helped bring the Scots to their no. 15 ranking.