CLAYTON — Middle Creek girls basketball coach Wes Petty was counting on senior forward Tyler Ross to give his team a boost this season. Ross, a transfer from Union Pines, averaged a double-double as a junior and was poised to step right in and lead the Mustangs.
We were expecting a whole lot out of Tyler, Petty said. Shes a great athlete. Shes a great basketball player, and shes a really great softball player. Shes going to N.C. State to play softball. And on top of that shes hard working and a really great teammate.
But best laid plans dont always work out.
Before the first game, Ross suffered a knee injury that has reduced her to simply a crutches-clad cheerleader on the bench. Her teammates have now been forced to fill the void.
Theyve come together a lot over the past couple of weeks, Petty said. Ive told them, Good teams respond well to adversity. And weve had to deal with this from day one. The good thing is they all work hard, and theyre all willing to contribute in their role.
Wednesday nights 39-30 win over host Cleveland (1-3) was a prime example of the kind of total team effort to which Petty was referring.
Nine of the 10 uniformed Mustangs (1-1) scored in the game. Only Betsy Dohrer, who finished with 10, scored in double figures. Seven of those nine grabbed at least one rebound. Sydney Smith led the way with five.
Defensively Middle Creeks guards were stifling on the perimeter all night, denying entry to the post and frustrating the Rams forwards. The Mustangs held leading scorer Cheyenne Wall scoreless.
Nobodys really played us man-to-man like they did, Cleveland coach Chris Danehour said. Everybodys played zone against us. We had a hard time getting the ball inside or to the wing.
Petty was pleased with his teams defensive aggressiveness the most.
We can always play with effort, he said. Thats what I tell them. And when that happens, good things happen.
Middle Creek did most of its damage early, mounting a 28-17 halftime lead. The second half was fairly even with both teams struggling to score for long stretches.
The Rams pulled to within eight after the third quarter, but was never able to get any closer.
Middle Creeks more experienced than we are, Danehour said. Weve got five freshmen on this team who play. Its hard when youve got freshman versus senior, but our energy level is good. When we got down, we didnt quit. Thatll get us places.