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Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed • Feb 24, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Wilson County has long been noted for its high school girls’ basketball programs. State championship banners adorn all three Class AAA schools.

Another sign of strength is its college representation. The Ohio Valley Conference is a prime example as no fewer than five players with local ties are on OVC rosters, and three of them are at or near the top of the league’s statistical categories.

We’ll start with the two you may be most familiar with. UT-Martin’s Kendall Spray is riddling perimeter defenses just as she did at Wilson Central. She is fourth in the league in scoring with 17.6 points per game and leads in three-point field-goal percentage (.435) and 3-pointers made (113, out of 260 attempts). Factor in her shots inside the arc, she’s shooting a 13th-best .447. Spray is also sixth in minutes played with 34.7 per contest. Oh - and she’s tied for ninth with 1.7 steals per game. She’s won two Tennessee Sports Writers Association Player of the Week awards covering all levels of four-year women’s college basketball in this state.

Like at Wilson Central, Spray is among the nation’s top three-point shooters, ranking in the top five in three categories, and already owns her school’s single-season record.

Closer to home, making a bid for Player of the Year honors from No. 23 Belmont is Sally McCabe. The 6-foot-3 senior post is 10th in scoring with 14.6 per game, sixth in rebounding with 7.4 (her 5.3 defensive boards per game is fifth) and third in field-goal percentage at .514. She is tied for third in blocked shots per game with 3.0, and her 77 total blocks is a dozen off the lead, but 26 in front of the third-place swatter. For her career, McCabe is second alltime in the OVC in blocked shots and is the Bruins Division I career scoring leader since 1997 (counting the NAIA era, she is well in the top 10.). Like Spray, she’s been recognized by my colleagues in the TSWA as the state’s Player of the Week.

And it’s not just under the basket where McCabe is excelling. She was named to the Academic All-District team by the College Sports Directors of America just two days ago based on her 3.85 grade-point average.

For some names you’ve likely forgotten, Deja Jones, who starred in the post for Friendship Christian (where she set the 5-on-5 single-game scoring record of 37 points which was shattered in December by Ashlyn Pittman) before transferring to Riverdale, where she played an injury-plagued senior season for current Lebanon coach Cory Barrett, leads the OVC in field-goal percentage by hitting .676 (100-of-148) for Southeast Missouri State. She averages 9.8 points per game for the Redhawks.

Abby Wright abruptly left Lebanon early in her junior season and, following a stopover at Lancaster Christian, finished her high school career at Oakland. Now a junior forward at Eastern Kentucky, she is 12th in the OVC with 14.1 points per game and 19th in rebounding with 5.7 boards, including a ninth-best 2.4 on the offensive end. She’s 15th in free-throw percentage (.764), 10th in three-point percentage (.363) with a 10th-best 1.7 made per game and 15th in minutes played with 32.5.

Former Wilson Central star Dominique St. Louis is a reserve post player for Morehead State.

That’s not counting people like Shelby Gibson, a teammate of Spray’s at West Wilson Middle School before spending her high school career at Oakland where she was a one-year teammate of Wright’s, now a sophomore starting post player at Ole Miss.

Or Susie Gardner, a Mt. Juliet standout in the early ‘80s now coaching Mercer University. The Bears got a big win over Chattanooga on Thursday to improve to 26-2, which includes a win at North Carolina. I haven’t seen them play, but current MJ coach Chris Fryer has on TV (or on a live stream) and says they’re the real deal.

Gardner’s Mercer team and McCabe’s Belmont team should both be dancing in the NCAA tournament next month.

Looks like women’s college basketball in general and the OVC in particular are an extension of Wilson County hoops.

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