Ruston’s Graf named District 2-5A COY

By T. Scott Boatright

After going 10-0 through district play this girls basketball season, it’s no surprise that the Ruston High School Lady Bearcats are dominant on the 2022 All 2-5A Girls Basketball Team.

And that’s dominant as in Ruston’s top seven players earning all-district honors.

Ruston’s Meredith Graf is the 2-5A Girls Coach of the Year while sophomore guard Jaliyah McWain and junior forward Emerald Parker are first-team selections.

Graf was quick to credit her team for her personal honor as 2-5A Coach of the Year.

“The thing is, a player is the one that has to play,” Graf said. “A coach is the one who tries to put the players in a position to be successful, but the players are the ones who have to decide if they’re going to be successful or not.

“But I appreciate it. And it’s nice recognition for what my girls accomplished this season. But it’s not about me. There’s a lot more to it and it takes a whole lot more people than just me to make that happen. I think of it as a team honor instead of an individual award.

Graf said the coaches’ voting process to determine the all-district team was a smooth one.

“For me, when you have a team like the team we had this season — we really were the sum of all parts,” Graf said. “You take away one or two kids and our team completely changes. I was very thankful that the district coaches as a whole were all fair, and every player deserved the honor they got, and deserved it.”

“When you have players with similar numbers, it’s hard to make that choice a lot of times, so I was pleased with the way it all went. There was no arguing. Everything was mutual and I think everybody got what they deserved.”

The only two undergraduates named All-District 2-5A first team selections were Ruston’s McWain and Parker. McWain averaged 12.0 points per game and 5.0 rebounds on the season while Parker averaged a double-double for the Lady Bearcats with 10.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per contest.

“The good thing is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, people respect what you have done,” Graf said. “We want all the kids who deserve to be recognized to be recognized. But yes, it is a positive when you have younger kids get those kinds of honors. Hopefully it gives them a positive that gives them something to strive for and continue to get better.”

Graf is also proud of the fact that Parker averaged a double-double on the season despite having to split time as a member of Ruston’s deep squad.

“To average a double-double on a deep team says more than just averaging a double-double,” Gaf said of Parker. “We all know how talented she is and that she plays a big role on our team. Numbers don’t lie, so there’s way not to appreciate what she did. Even when she wasn’t at the top of her game, her numbers were impressive. Plus she was consistent — that was probably the most important thing she gave us.” She blocks shots, crashes the boards and gets those ‘and ones.’ Emerald’s teammates noticed that, just like the opposing coaches did.”

Three Ruston players earned second-team all-district accolades — seniors Alexis Foster and Kemiah Spencer along with sophomore Zaccheya Jackson.

Two other Lady Bearcat seniors, Mariah Hintze and University of West Alabama signee Kiona McAllister, were named honorable mention on the All District 2-5A squad.

“Those two are a big part of the reason I am so proud of this team,” Graf said. “Those two were unselfish. They knew their role, and everybody wanted everybody to succeed. And when everybody does that, when they buy into what their job is and that maybe they’re not going to score as much as they want to, or get as much playing time as they want, it’s all for the betterment of the team.

“We’re just blessed to have so many good and talented girls. We preached that all year long and I’m so proud they believed in it the entire year. And that’s what makes it so great to see us have as many players recognized as we did.”

West Monroe’s Pashonnay Johnson (17 ppg, 7 rpg) was named the District 2-5A Girls Player of the Year while Ouachita’s Faith Lee (15 ppg, 6 rpg) and West Ouachita’s Jill Peacock (14 ppg, 4 rpg) also earned first-team accolades.

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