By MARINA WATERS
The Lady Trailblazers may be shooting for the moon, but there’s no one star on the team—and that’s just part of what has made the state-ranked basketball squad so successful this season.
The Boone team is 5-0 in conference play and 12-6 overall. They’re the tenth ranked team in Class AAA but head coach Travis Mains couldn’t pin the team’s success on one player—he praised them all.
“It could be any one of seven kids every night that’s scoring,” Mains said. “They’re very deep. They’re very talented. I’m very blessed to be able to coach them because we probably have six or seven kids that have the opportunity to play college basketball when they get out of high school. I think we’ve exceeded expectations.”
Though the team has been a top contender for the conference title this season, Coach Mains knew that his squad had to put pressure on when it came time to face Sullivan Central during an away game for the Lady Trailblazers Friday night.
“They’re an up-and-coming team. They’re really big,” Mains said. “We’ll have to do a good job rebounding the ball and providing pressure to turn the ball over. Anytime you’re on the road to play conference games, you don’t shoot very well. But we’ll hang our hat on what we do well which is play defense. Hopefully that will carry us.”
The Gray, Tennessee squad topped the Lady Cougars 48-40. Sydney Pearce and Bayleigh Carmichel contributed to bring Boone to 33-32 over Central in the fourth quarter and Macie Culbertson made a 10-0 run in the remaining four minutes of the game to clinch the win for the Lady Trailblazers.
Mains said that part of the reason his team is so competitive is due to their non-conference schedule. The team is 16-4 following their victory in Blountville on Friday, but they’ve also battled teams from other parts of the region including a team ranked at no. 17 in the nation.
“We’ve played a lot of really really good teams which has prepared us for our conference schedule and getting us hopefully ready for the state tournament,” Mains said. “They gained confidence by playing the best and going against the best. When we get around here, everything’s a little slower and we’ll be a team that speeds everybody up.”
The team also sees themselves as a team Mains said. During the season they’ve not only played conference outsiders, but they’ve also grown alongside one another as teammates and athletes.
“They’re a really close knit group. For one thing, they’re very dedicated to the sport,” Mains said. “There are five or six kids that play year round. So we have a lot of committed kids which is really rare for a small community to have kids that play year round.”
The Lady Blazers know what they do well; from working as a whole and playing on their defensive strengths, Coach Mains is aiming to maintain what has worked for The Lady Trailblazers this season.
“Our pressure’s been our bread and butter this year. We’ve gotten a lot out of it. We turn teams over probably 22, 23 times a game,” Mains explained.
“That really gives us an advantage and allows us to use our depth too—and wear teams down. We’re gonna keep doing what’s made us good.”
The Boone squad may want to bring their strengths Friday night when they head to Johnson City to tackle Science Hill.
The Lady Hilltoppers are 4-1 in conference and 16-3 overall going into the game against the fellow conference opponent.
“They’re going to have a huge crowd there. And if they beat us, they’ll be tied for first,” Mains said. “We’ve gotta take care of business and we have a good chance to win the conference championship.”