Lady Cats keep district title hopes alive

Jaliyah McWain scores in transition during Tuesday’s 56-22 win over Pineville. (Photo by Trenton Richard)

By Malcolm Butler

Tuesday evenings 5 p.m. tip-off between Ruston High and Pineville was a little earlier than the norm and may have contributed to a less than stellar start.

The atmosphere and noise level inside the RHS Gymnasium were more conducive to a sleep study test than a high school hoops game. However, once Ruston woke up, the Lady Bearcats put a sleeper-hold on the Lady Rebels by the tune of a 56-22 victory.

Ruston held a slim 9-7 advantage through the first quarter before methodically pulling away for the win.

“I thought we started off slow,” said Graf. “It was a quiet environment with a 5 p.m. (tip time). I did feel like the more we played, the better we got going. The more energy we got. I thought once we settled in, we were able to capitalize on some turnovers, get some momentum going and it was a team effort after that.”

Jaliyah McWain and Ella Kate Jones combined for 15 of the Lady Bearcats 23 first half points as Ruston held a 23-13 halftime lead. McWain finished with a game-high 13 points while Jones contributed nine points.

Graf praised the efforts of Jones, a freshman guard.

“She … figures out how she can contribute sometimes,” said Graf. “When one thing isn’t working, she helps us out in another way. That’s really big for us especially getting ready for the playoffs. Everyone is not always going to have a great shooting night and we aren’t always going to finish well, (so) how she help in other ways.”

Any chance of a Pineville second half rally was doused in the third quarter as Ruston outscored Pineville 19-7, allowing Graf to use her reserves freely in the final quarter of action.

Junior Aakeyliah Jones added eight points for the Lady Bearcats while Marcy Parker scored six points.

With the win, Ruston (14-12, 7-2) has an opportunity Friday night to earn a share of the District 2-5A title when the Lady Bearcats host Alexandria Senior High (18-12, 8-1). ASH holds a one-game lead in the district race, including a 56-37 win over Ruston in the first meeting of the season back on Jan. 20.