By CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
CUBA — Lady Rebels head coach Aaron Wight has pretty much seen it all unfold before his very eyes. In his numerous seasons pacing the sidelines both inside and outside, Wight has had the distinct pleasure of coaching one of Allegany County’s stars on both the soccer pitch, and the basketball hardwood during the winter — Taylor Searle.
No matter which way you look at it, Searle’s impact in both realms of competition has resonated since the very beginning of her journey. Now in her final season donning Cuba-Rushford’s blue, maroon and white colors, it was now time to begin leaving an everlasting legacy behind in the school she will soon graduate from, this June.
How does a ticket into the 1,000-point club sound?
She only needed 27 points to gain entry at the beginning of the night. But Searle went on to take that extra step to make sure she got it all, as she posted 30 team-high points, with the millennium-clinching basket coming in the late stages of the fourth quarter on a drive down low, to assist in setting up what was a 61-54 win over visiting Houghton Academy on Friday to spring back to .500 on the season to close out the week.
“I’m really happy for Taylor. It’s been a privilege to coach her in both sports throughout her career,” Wight said. “Beyond just her ability on the court and on the field, she is a great student, person and teammate. I’ve never had a single issue with her as far as attitude and discipline. She just shows up every night and works so hard. And it’s been that way for the last four years. I’m so proud of her.”
Searle becomes the sixth member to gain entry into Cuba-Rushford’s exclusive club, and the 17th member altogether. The last to do so, was another prominent name in Lady Rebels lore — Kate Howe, the girls basketball program’s All-Time leading scorer who eclipsed that historic mark in the 2018-19 season.
To do it, the Lady Rebels (7-7) fed off a brilliant start that stemmed after Houghton Academy bucketed the first six points, answering back with 12 of the next 13 points to take an early, commanding lead across midway and to the end of the opening frame.
The lead for the hosts in white and blue was pushed out into double-digit territory, with Emma Retz inside and a pair of Cloey Larabee three-pointers helping set the stage up for a 36-23 lead to control after the break. Both teams would trade 10-point third quarters to start the second half. In the midst of it all, Cuba-Rushford pushed their advantage to as large as 19 over the Lady Panthers (2-11) with under four minutes left in the period.
But Houghton Academy would not back down, as they responded with their largest offensive outburst of the night — a 21-point frame to close the gap behind the Lady Rebels, garnering 11 straight points after a quarter-opening bucket from the hosts. But off the jaunt, the Lady Rebels were able to shake it off and outlast the Lady Panthers through a back-and-forth exchanging of pleasantries down the home stretch.
A stretch that saw Searle eclipse the historic 1,000-point mark in her career off an excellent in-bound pass from Retz on the baseline, taking one dribble towards the basket before letting it go with under four minutes left to play, helping keep Cuba-Rushford’s spot in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
After the shot, Searle was presented with multiple commemorations from her team, including a trio of banners and a pair of basketballs — one celebrating her 1,000 career points, and the other marking another significant achievement: A 38-point game against Friendship/Scio back on December 10, a performance that broke a Cuba-Rushford school record for most points in a game, in girls basketball history.
“Tonight’s game, Taylor needed 27 to get to 1,000 and the entire gym knew that,” said Wight. “There was lots of anticipation, and we kind of forgot how to play basketball at times during the second half. Houghton hit some huge shots. Thankfully, we got some big contributions from Cloey and Emma offensively, and Kendall (Tompkins) gave us some great minutes in her first game up from JV.”
Finishing behind Searle were both Larabee and Retz, as the two shooters both collected 10 points. Tompkins finished with four points.
On the other side, Jess Prentice pieced together an outstanding performance for the Lady Panthers. Despite the defeat, she posted a season-high 43 points to lead the offense, including all six of the team’s three-pointers. Laura Maya provided six points of her own, while Jessica Adenuga chipped in with five points.
Both teams are back on the floor Monday night, with the Lady Rebels re-entering the Wighthouse to take on Bolivar-Richburg in a 7:30 p.m. contest, while Houghton Academy looks to rebound on the road again with a 5:45 p.m. visit to Alfred-Almond.
Houghton Academy 9 14 10 21 – 54
Cuba-Rushford 18 18 10 13 – 61
HOUGHTON ACADEMY: Jess Prentice 17 3-4 43, Jessica Adenuga 2 1-2 5, Laura Maya 3 0-0 6. Totals: 22 4-6 54.
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Cloey Larabee 4 0-0 10, Kendall Tompkins 2 0-0 4, Shae Maples 1 0-0 2, Emma Retz 4 1-2 10, Brynn Lavery 1 1-2 3, Taylor Searle 11 7-8 30. Totals: 26 9-12 61.
3-point goals: HA 6 (Prentice), C-R 4 (Larabee 2, Retz, Searle).
Total Fouls: HA 12, C-R 6. Fouled out: None.