Blount Press Row

The Perfect 10

MC All-American Puckett has the whole game and then some

Scots senior Mackenzie Puckett has overcome a pair of knee injuries to become arguably the most complete player to ever wear a Maryville uniform.

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

If you’ve never seen her play — and even if you have — Mackenzie Puckett is definitely worth the trip to Maryville College this afternoon.

She’s been known to put on a show even in practice.

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Puckett ranks fourth all-time on Maryville’s career scoring ladder, needing 16 points in Saturday’s USA South championship game to reach 1,500 points. Photos by Brandon Shinn

“She windmilled on me the other day,” teammate and fellow Scots senior Joanna Young said.

We don’t know about all the circus dunking. Puckett, with a laugh, says it isn’t true. There’s little else the Maryville senior All-American can’t do on a basketball court. That’s not the story, though.

The Scots host longtime rival Piedmont in the USA South Athletic Conference tournament championship game at Boydson Baird Gymnasium at 2 p.m.

There’s a pressure all its own hosting the conference tournament when you’re the league’s top seed. Only Puckett doesn’t see it that way.

“You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity,” she said. “It’s the chance to play in front of family and friends. You have to seize the moment.”

Puckett paced Maryville to a 61-37 win over LaGrange in Friday’s semifinals, pumping in 13 points to go with seven boards, two assists and a steal. Indicative of the balanced team record-setting coach Darrin Travillian has assembled, the Scots also got 10 points from sophomore Madison Maples, nine on three treys from fellow sophomore Hayley Talbott, eight from shooting guard Lauren Biliter.

Nine Scots inked the scoresheet.

There’s little question Puckett is the engine that makes Maryville go. Her character, not her jumper, is why.

“As good a player as she is, she’s a better person,” Travillion said, “and she’s a great player. She’s the most coachable player I’ve ever had in my life.”

Sophomore Madison Maples has teamed with Puckett to giver Maryville a genuinely terrific one-two punch.

Sophomore Madison Maples has teamed with Puckett to give Maryville a genuinely terrific one-two punch.

The Franklin native took Maryville by storm three years ago, earning USA South Rookie of the Year honors. Two years later, the super smooth 5-11 forward was named the league’s player of the year, a feat she repeated this season.

With 16 points this afternoon, she becomes only the fourth player in the history of the women’s program at Maryville to reach 1,500 points.

A year ago, Puckett could have walked away, and no one would have blamed her.

In February of her sophomore year, the Maryville marvel tore the ACL in her left knee. Informed the injury posed no long-term damage if she could handle the pain, she played with a brace the rest of the season.

“The trainers said she could play on it that year,” Travillion said. “That thing would pop and crack; it was tough.”

It wasn’t over.

Offseason surgery got Puckett back for her junior year. During a practice in December of 2014, she tore the ACL in the same knee. Again, she battled back.

Limited in practice, she kept the knee iced and elevated for road games.

“She would wear that (ice pack) four or five hours on a bus trip,” Travillion said, “then get off the bus and play. I was so proud of her getting the player of the year in the conference. She should have won it on courage alone.”

The end result is arguably the most complete player ever to wear a Maryville women’s uniform. Skilled off the dribble, she can handle from the head of the circle. She has the size to play underneath.

Joanna Young rushes the ball into frontcourt for the Scots.

Joanna Young rushes the ball into front court.

“She’s just an all-round good player,” Young said. “Her jumper is just killer. When we need a shot, she makes it. She’s dropped 29 in a game.”

As Maryville goes for the title this afternoon, Puckett is first or second in every statistical category.

“You want to give (teammates) the opportunity, too,” she said.

Maryville is all but assured of an NCAA tournament berth regardless of this afternoon’s outcome, but Puckett said the Scots refuse to get ahead of themselves.

“The goal is to go as far in the NCAA tournament as we can, but first things first,” she said. “You’ve got to win (today).”

Doesn’t get much better than that. Still like to see that windmill, though.

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