Blount Press Row

Liv It Up

Title game eruption cements Pepperman player of year selection

Maryville senior Olivia Pepperman, the Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Year, guided the No. 4-seed Lady Rebels on a district tournament championship run that included a semifinal upset of top-seed Bearden. Photos by Wallace Bowden

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Maryville led, 10-4, when the first sparks appeared.

Eight points later, Olivia Pepperman, the Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Year, was fully on fire … and so were the Lady Rebels.

Pepperman’s late first quarter, early second eruption in the District 4AAA tournament championship game this spring changed everything. A much-anticipated, All-Blount County showdown with William Blount for the district crown was over before it got a chance to start.

Pepperman caught fire in a big way at the district tournament in securing MVP honors.

The Lady Rebels led by 17 at halftime en route to a convincing, 71-45 win, Pepperman named the the tournament’s most valuable player.

“She was incredible,” Maryville coach Scott West said. “That’s the only word I can put on it. She was strong with the basketball. She was special that week.”

Memorable were the Pepperman’s comments afterward.

“We knew we had to come out focused because that is a very good William Blount team,” she said.

Yeah, but …

The Lady Rebel lead only increased by the quarter. It was 54-35 Maryville after three. Sophomore and All-Blount County First Team selection Courtney Carruthers buried seven 3s on the way to a game-high 26 points. The Lady Rebels revved to such a level center and all-county selection Lindsay Taylor was finishing the break by the second half.

Through it all, Pepperman — 18 points, team-best eight rebounds, four assists — said she never allowed herself to rest easy. The Lady Governors, who won two of three regular-season meetings, had the outside shooters to rally quickly.

“Honestly, I felt like it was a close game the whole time,” the Trevecca Nazarene signee said. “I never let myself get comfortable.”

The Lady Rebels finished Blount County’s lone district champion after entering the tournament’s fourth seed. Maryville knocked off top-seed and state-ranked No. 4 Bearden en route to the title game. The Lady Bulldogs (24-4) had only a single loss all season prior to the meeting.

For the year, Pepperman finished with a team-best 13 points per game average on a club with no shortage of scoring options. Her six rebounds per game trailed only Taylor’s eight. Three assists and three steals per outing speak to a player who can both orchestrate and ignite.

A big senior season for Pepperman included joining the 1,000 points club.

Pepperman’s championship game burst wasn’t that surprising in some respects. An explosive athlete by nature, she still ranks eighth all time in the high jump at Maryville. She cleared 4-feet, 6-inches as a freshman before walking away from track and field to focus on basketball.

Then there was the night the all-district selection became Maryville’s latest member of the 1,000 points club.

Willliam Blount visited Maryville only a week before the start of the district tournament. Pepperman was quickly in foul trouble, collecting her fourth with still six minutes to play in the third. Needing 12 for 1,000 entering the game, she had four points.

When she returned in the fourth, she kinda went off. Eleven points later, 1,000 for a career was in the rearview mirror and fading fast, the Lady Rebels en route to a 63-49 win and a wave of momentum as postseason neared.

Barley’s/Blount Press Row
All-Blount County Girls Basketball Team
First Team

Olivia Pepperman
Maryville, Senior
Barley's/BPR Player of the Year
Taylor Goforth
William Blount, Junior
Maddie Sutton
Heritage, Senior
Courtney Carruthers
Maryville, Sophomore
Lindsay Taylor
Maryville, Sophomore

Second Team

Hannah Fuller
William Blount, Senior
Katie Bean
Alcoa, Junior
Madison McClurg
Alcoa, Junior
Lexi Campos
William Blount, Junior
Riley Hicks
Alcoa, Junior

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