Ruston’s Meredith Graf is co-Coach of the Year on the All-District 2-5A girls basketball team chosen by coaches and the Louisiana Sportswriters Association, heading 10 Bearcats and Lady Bearcats spotlighted after each team made major improvements in 2020-21.
Five Ruston girls joined their coach on the All-District squad. Sophomore Emerald Parker was a first-team pick after averaging eight points and 10 rebounds, and freshman Jaliyah McWain made the second team. Honorable mention recognition went to three Lady Bearcat juniors: Kemiah Spencer, Mariah Hintze and Kiona McCallister.
Ruston advanced to the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs before a 42-38 loss at Hahnville.
It was a breakthrough season for the Lady Bearcats, who were 2-5A co-champions, claiming the first district title for the program in well over a decade.
Graf’s third RHS team finished 22-8 with a 7-2 district record and were No. 9 in the LHSAA Class 5A power rankings, one spot ahead of co-district champ West Monroe. The Lady Bearcats rose from a 14-16 overall mark and a 3-7 district record in 2019-20. They have all five starters and all but two seniors back for next season. Graf shared the Coach of the Year award with John Green of West Monroe, where she was an assistant before moving to Ruston as an assistant four years ago.
The Bearcats also made big strides this season under second-year coach Ryan Bond, finishing with their first winning mark in a few years at 16-7 overall and 4-5 in district. Senior Markel Jones was a second-team all-district pick after averaging 10 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Two other RHS seniors, Joshua Dean and Rollin Belton, were honorable mention selections along with freshman teammate Jamadrion Lillard. Dean averaged nine points and two assists, Belton (who signed to play collegiately at Marist) contributed eight points and six rebounds per game, and Lillard posted averages of nine points and six rebounds.
“Overall, I am pleased with the season,” said Bond, whose team dropped a first-round road playoff game after being seeded 19th in the 32-team playoff field. “I have always been told it takes three years to get things the way you want as a coach, but we are ahead of schedule. The seniors did a great job of establishing a strong culture for the future. We have several guys returning that played major minutes for us. That experience is going to pay off down the road.
“I am also excited about our incoming freshman class. They will get an opportunity to contribute next year,” said the former Louisiana Tech postman, who played professionally in Europe before becoming head coach at his hometown school in Weston and taking the Ruston position two years ago.
CEDAR CREEK GIRLS: In almost any other Class A district in the state, the Lady Cougars would have dominated the individual awards, but those went deservedly to state champion Ouachita Christian.
However, four Cedar Creek players earned All-District 2-A honors, led by first-team picks Sarah Adams, Riley Spradlin and Allie Furr. Millie Venters was a second-team selection and Elizabeth McAdams earned honorable mention recognition.
Cedar Creek dominated every district foe except OCS and played the Lady Eagles to a seven-point game that was their closest, by far, against a Class A or Division IV opponent.
Adams, a junior, led Creek (20-4) with a 21-point scoring average, six assists and five steals per game at point guard. Spradlin contributed 14 points per game, six rebounds and two steals in her senior year. Venters is a junior and McAdams a sophomore.
The Lady Cougars reached the state semifinals for a second straight season and should be among the state’s top Division IV teams again in 2021-22.
Photo: courtesy of Ruston HS
Photo: courtesy Christy Mabou and Cedar Creek School