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Tillie makes great selection as district player of the year

_84A9945Maryville junior Kayla Tillie defends against Alcoa’s Kayla Newman on Friday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Madison Coulter is like few freshmen you will ever see.

Madison Coulter defends in the post on Friday.

Madison Coulter defends in the post on Friday.

Injury has dealt Dee Cook’s high school career some tough, tough blows, making her largely an unknown entering the season, but the Maryville senior is no sudden star.

Mix in equal parts point guard and District 4AAA Player of the Year Kayla Tillie and playmaking forward Leila Bangash, and Maryville girls’ basketball has seen the rise of the perfect storm this season, evidenced by a 61-50 win at rival Alcoa on Friday.

Tillie, lethal from the arc, off the drive or setting up her teammates, is perfectly placed to make it all go for the district regular-season co-champion Lady Rebels.

“It’s not just points,” Maryville coach Scott West said. “Kayla averages 5.5 rebounds, five assists and two steals per game.”

Coulter, 18 points, two treys, and Cook, 12 and a pair of deep bombs, have proven twin killers from the perimeter this winter, and they were hot early on Friday.

Leila Bangash makes her move.

Leila Bangash makes her move.

Tillie, game-high 19 points, two 3s, six assists, put in a layup right off the opening tip. Coulter – nine first half points and three of her treys – and Cook – eight and two 3s – then went to work, pushing Maryville to leads of 17-10 after a quarter and 35-21 at the half.

Tillie had tallied eight by that point, Bangash, the cyclone around whom much of the whole thing revolves, five. With freshman guard Preston Robinette adding five more, including a 3, West was able to rest his starters for long stretches in the opening half, reinserting them to push the lead to bigger and bigger margins on fresh legs.

“When you’ve got three or four players averaging in double figures, that’s hard to guard,” Bangash said.

Hannah Tate, 13 points, and shooting guard Cassidy Anderson, 12, three treys, had a strong response for the Lady Tornadoes. Tara Shields, Kayla Newman and Hannah Troutt had five each. With the Carson-Newman signee Newman, the Alcoa floor general, limited by foul trouble much of the night, the Lady Tornadoes weren’t able to hold the pace.

Coulter, a tall, sweet-shooting freshman with a feel for the game well ahead of her years, and Cook, a speedy, off-the-dribble shooter slowed by knee injuries her first three years at Maryville, are a big part of why the Lady Rebels have been so tough guard.

Dee Cook pulls up for two.

Dee Cook pulls up for two. Coulter (24) has perfect placement at opposite wing.

Their accuracy from the arc, with Cook also scoring off the drive of late, gives Tillie a pair of ready targets at all times.

“I always know where Madison and Dee are going to be,” Tillie said.

Tillie is more than capable of getting all the way to the rim with the ball. It’s the pick-and-roll game she often runs with Bangash that gives Maryville its mojo, though. When it’s working, and defenses contract to slow it down, Cook, Coulter, Robinette and the rest are open for target practice.

“I think they’re very selfless with the basketball,” Maryville assistant coach and former Tennessee Lady Vol Karla Horton Douglas said. “They’re great at getting the ball into the hands of the player who needs to have it.”

When that player, first and foremost, is your point guard, good things tend to happen.

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