Anna McKendree is seven points shy of 1,000 career points, an impressive feat for a four-year career, but McKendree isn’t a senior. She’s just a sophomore, and one of the leaders on a West Hall team that has state championship aspirations.
On Friday, the Lady Spartans tip off at 6:30 p.m. against Maynard Jackson (28-1) in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state tournament at Augusta University in Augusta. There, McKendree will more than likely reach that milestone of 1,000 points.
McKendree has already scored 72 points in the first two games of the state tournament (40 vs. Adairsville, 32 vs. Washington County). She had 33 against Dawson County in the region championship and is averaging 29.4 points per game for the month of February.
The sophomore is a big reason why the Lady Spartans are on a 12-game winning and have reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament for the first time since 1999.
“It’s pretty special to have a player who can score these numbers,” West Hall coach Bryan Richerson said. “You don’t see that very often.
“She’s a fearless player who has a knack to score.”
Richerson says that he hasn’t seen that type of scoring in his 13 years of coaching, boys or girls.
“If you can score that much in two years, you have something special,” he said.
Just talking to McKendree, however, wouldn’t tell you that she is performing at a level her coach has never witnessed before.
“I need to work on my defense,” McKendree said.
Despite all the scoring, McKendree kept stressing the importance of a strong defensive performance for the Lady Spartans in their upcoming quarterfinal matchup with Maynard Jackson.
“I think we’ll be prepared on defense,” she said.
While McKendree will have to step up her defense, the rest of her team will have to step up on offense.
The surrounding cast of Macy Passmore, Megan English and Meaghan Kelling will be counted on as the Lady Jaguars will likely be looking to take McKendree away.
The Lady Spartans will be getting back guard Avery Prather after a two-game suspension for the quarterfinal round.
With Prather or Izzy Salgado likely to start in the third guard spot alongside McKendree and Passmore, both will need to deliver strong minutes in rotation for West Hall to move on. The scrappy play and hustle they’ve shown in games earlier this season could prove to be a factor in the game.
Junior forward Danielle Hinkelman will be looked to as a role player to give English and Kelling a break down low.
It’ll be the second time West Hall faces Maynard Jackson this season. The Lady Spartans lost to the Lady Jaguars, 71-57, on Dec. 12.
Rebounds and eliminating second chances on the defensive boards will also be an important facet in the outcome. That is where English, Kelling and Hinkelman will really come up big. Though, McKendree and Passmore are also counted on to crash the boards.
“We need to go in humble and ready to play,” McKendree said. “One and done on the rebounds and come out with the win.”
Richerson said that game was a tough one because they weren’t able to get any film on Maynard Jackson before the game and had to rely on footage from last season. Couple that with the fact that this game was sandwiched between two region games, the former being a 45-42 loss to Franklin County the night before, and it becomes clear that a different Lady Spartans team will be taking the floor at Augusta University this Friday.
“We are a totally different team,” Richerson said. “We have a lot of confidence right now.”