By TREY WILLIAMS
The Daniel Boone girls basketball team didn’t reach the state tournament for the second time in three years, but its final two games of the season came against teams playing in Murfreesboro this week.
A 70-38 loss at Science Hill in the regional championship game on Wednesday led to a matchup Saturday at Maryville, where Miss Basketball finalist Denae Fritz was eager to punch the Rebels’ first state tournament ticket since 1999.
Fritz, a junior that’s already been offered by Cincinnati, scored the first 12 points for the Rebels (30-4), who led by as many as 24 in a 64-50 victory.
Daniel Boone senior Jaycie Jenkins concluded a stellar career by scoring 16 of her 21 points in the second half at Maryville. Jenkins finished the season averaging 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, and she faced gimmick defenses the vast majority of games.
Jenkins painted her masterpiece, a 44-point performance, in a triple-overtime win against Jefferson County – a regional semifinal victory that secured her third sectional berth in four seasons.
“Jaycie saved her best for the biggest game of the year,” said second-year coach Beau Hauldren, whose Trailblazers finished with a 20-13 record. “She’s a special player. It’s gonna be hard, man. I’m just in my second year, but I don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity to coach a player like Jaycie again. And it’s not just skill wise. It’s everything. It’s her being so humble, playing hard every second of the game. That’s hard to find.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to coach her the last two years. You see somebody hit three straight threes in the regional semifinals and they’re doing something back down the court – either shooting a bow and arrow or throwing up a three. She makes a shot and runs back and plays defense. She’s just a great person, a high-character person.”
Boone might’ve overachieved this season, particularly after losing senior post Grayson Stevens to a patella tendon injury in the district tournament semifinals.
“Grayson would’ve made a difference at Maryville,” Hauldren said.
Maddie Bunting blossomed in Stevens’ absence and Savannah Jessee hit a shot to force the third overtime against Jefferson County. Senior point guard Kayla Gibson’s perimeter shot forced the first OT against the Patriots.
“We were fortunate,” Hauldren said. “Obviously to make it to substate you need a little bit of luck, and we got a little bit of luck, especially there in that Jefferson County game. We made some shots. Gibson’s shot sent us into the first overtime and Savannah Jessee sent us into the third overtime.
“I thought probably within the last month we really started playing our best. Gibson started making shots for us. Kayla can handle the ball and she was a smart point guard. She understood the game.
“Maddie played better, and Savannah Jessee. Our guards off the bench – Rebecca Higgins started playing well toward the end of the season. We started playing our best when we needed to play our best. I was happy with that.”
Senior Madi Runnels was an invaluable cog for Boone after transferring from Providence Academy prior to her junior season. She scored 15 points against Maryville and 11 against Science Hill last week.
Jenkins is thankful for the team accomplishments during her prolific career. Three sectional berths and a state tournament won’t be forgotten.
“This year there were several players that stepped up at different times that really helped our team,” Jenkins said. “Kayla really hit some big shots down the stretch this season. Coach Hauldren never gave up on us and poured his heart into this team. I was blessed to have two great coaches (including Hauldren predecessor Travis Mains) during my basketball time here at Boone. I was blessed to be able to play with players like Bayleigh (Carmichel), Sydney (Pearce) and Macie (Culbertson).
“I have to thank the Lord for giving me the ability to play basketball and keeping me healthy throughout my four years here. Even though we didn’t make it to state we exceeded everyone’s expectations. This season we faced some adversity and injuries and going as far as we did made it extra special.”