Like an oven

Vaught cooks as Lady Rebels clinch

Maryville junior Torie Vaught wheels into the lane against William Blount earlier this season.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville junior Torie Vaught wheels into the lane against William Blount earlier this season.

It’s been a good week for Maryville’s Lady Rebels.

It’s been a super one for junior Torie Vaught.

Finishing off a stretch that saw the Lady Rebels play five games in seven days and win them all, Vaught visited a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds on Farragut Tuesday night at James Campbell Gymnasium.

Rebekah Singleton’s steady free-throw shooting kept Maryville clear in the fourth quarter, and the Lady Rebels turned back the Lady Admirals, 56-47, to clinch the regular-season, District 4AAA championship.

The league title and top seed in next week’s district tournament at Lenoir City came a day after Maryville (23-2, 12-1) cracked the state poll for the first time this season. The Lady Rebels, who’ve won 14 straight since a tournament loss in December, made their debut at the No. 9 spot.

The Farragut win capped a week that saw Maryville collect wins over Oak Ridge, Catholic, Lenoir City and West to continue a late-season push.

Maryville coach Kim Bledsoe said she isn’t concerned with it taking much of the season for the Lady Rebels to be listed among the state’s top 10 teams. Even the Lady Rebels’ modest, No. 9 opening is of little bother.

“We don’t have the tradition to be ranked up there in the state at this point,” Bledsoe said, “but that’s OK.”

It might not be OK for very much longer. Vaught’s performances the last seven days have gone a long way to make player of the year voting by league coaches next week a moot point.

The 6-foot jump shooter launched her week-long assault with a 17-point effort in a 59-56 win over Oak Ridge last Monday, matching fellow junior Alex Breazeale for game-high honors.

A day later, Vaught’s 12 points trailed only sophomore Miranda Maples (13 points) as Maryville put away Catholic, 56-34, in Knoxville. Two days later, Lenoir City succumbed, 44-27, to the Lady Rebels, with Vaught’s pacing Maryville with 14. Following a weekend break, Vaught returned red-hot this past Monday, lighting up West for 25 points. The 66-56 win got the Lady Rebels within a game of the regular-season district title.

Farragut remained within 10 points for much of the game Tuesday but could never really find an answer to Vaught. She’s become quite the finisher in this her junior campaign, and it’s no accident.

Vaught trains three days a week at a Dynabody Gym and Fitness Center with local trainer Keith Harris.

“He works me,” Vaught said. “I know I make him mad sometimes, but he’s stuck with me. This summer I went to him twice a week and it helped me become stronger.”

Vaught’s improved play in traffic this season has been noticeable, Bledsoe said.

“We knew what Torie could do,” she said, “but she’s come 100 miles since the beginning of the season.”

Breazeale has noticed the change as well.

“She’s become a very strong player,” she said. “She takes it to the hole a lot more and she’s setting up other people.”

Maryville closes the regular season with a tournament-style run equally as daunting as the one just completed. A trip to arch-rival Alcoa is on Thursday, with Lenoir City visiting on Friday to make up an earlier game this season postponed due to weather.

Both of those teams are aware of the pace Vaught is on this season. Her 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game are both Maryville bests. The Lady Rebel leader is hitting on 55 percent of shots to account for the scoring.

Opponents the rest of the way are sure to focus much of their attention on Vaught, only the Lady Rebels are anything but a solo effort this season. Bledsoe was all but at a loss for words when asked which particular Lady Rebel had come the farthest this year.

“We’ve been so balanced,” she said, “I’m not sure I could pick one.”

Breazeale pumped 17 against Oak Ridge the same day the 5-8 shooting guard returned from an ankle injury that’d kept her sideline for two weeks. Breazeale’s 11.6 points on 42 percent shooting, 39 percent from 3-point range, has proven an effective deterrent for teams inclined to clog the middle to slow Vaught.

Breazeale is also an excellent distributor from the perimeter, leading the Lady Rebels with 3.1 assists per game. Senior point guard Carrie Goodson is tossing in 8.5 points per night, tacking on 2.8 assists. Maples, along with eight points per game on offense, has sparked Maryville defensively with 51 blocks this season. Senior Kylie Whaley’s 4.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists adds a little bit of everything. Singleton — 7.2 points, 3.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 75.8 percent free-throw shooting — may be one of the district’s most undervalued players.

“We’re clicking really, really well right now,” Vaught said. “I feel like all of us are starting to step up and prove to people that think we can’t do it that they’re wrong.”

Thursday’s clash with the Lady Tornadoes could prove an interesting one for the Lady Rebels, who would like nothing better than to hit the district tournament on a roll. Guard-heavy Alcoa is, in many ways, the opposite of a Maryville team whose front court can claim a size advantage over all but a handful of opponents.

The Lady Tornadoes possess a trio of guards — juniors Kylie Russell and Takyah Gilmore and sophomore Alisha Shiverdecker — who’ve each had big nights of late. Russell scorched Kingston for seven 3-pointers last month.

Alcoa pulled within a point in the fourth quarter last month at Maryville before the Lady Rebels hung on at the free-throw line for a 34-25 win. The Lady Tornadoes stopped District 4AA rival Loudon, 55-42, on Tuesday to enter the rematch with the Lady Rebels on a streak of their own, winners of the last five.

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