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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Blunt leaves a legacy at Dexter

Sunday, March 27, 2005

(Photo)
Rachel Blunt, Dexter
SIKESTON -- Impressive both on and off the court, Dexter's Rachel Blunt is the Standard Democrat Girls Player of the Year.

Blunt led the Dexter girls basketball team to new heights with an all-time high 24 wins against five losses, a first-ever district title and a sectional win. "She's much more than her statistics on the court," said Dexter coach Gavin Miller. "Equally important is what she's done off the court with her work ethic, her desire and her leadership."

Blunt, who Miller calls the hardest worker he's ever been around, leaves as the Lady Bearcats' all-time leading scorer, single season and career.

This past season, Blunt set the single-season mark with 567 points, a 19.6 points-per-game clip. She also posted double-digit rebound numbers at 10.5 per game. In fact, since Blunt was inserted into the Bearcats' starting lineup midway through her freshman year, she has averaged a double-double (14 ppg/10 rpg) each season.

Her career numbers include a school-record 1,491 points and a stellar 77-

percent accuracy from the free-throw line.

A lithe six-foot senior, Blunt is a finesse, rather than a power, player with an arsenal of basketball skills.

"My ability to drive the ball and create shots for other people is my main strength," she said.

So polished were her ball-handling skills, she often brought the ball upcourt for the Lady 'Cats. Possessing a soft shooting touch around the basket and from the charity stripe, Blunt hit 117-of-140 (83.6 percent) free throws in her senior campaign, while averaging 3.5 assists and 1.0 steal per game.

Blunt leaves a lasting legacy for Dexter's upstart girls program.

"I felt like I was walking on air for about a week after that district win," said Blunt. "I told Coach (Miller) before the season started that there had been a lot of great players come through Dexter in recent years, like Brett Hale and Shannon Wright whose teams were always ranked in the top two in state, and they never did it (win a district). I told Coach that I wanted to leave behind a legacy that said I did something. That trophy will be there long after I'm gone."

Blunt's personal maturation coincides with the performance uptick of her team.

"The last two years she's been our leader, on and off the court," said Miller.

Said Blunt, "I learned to be a leader. I learned that you can't go up to your teammates and tell them this or that is what you're doing wrong. You pat them on the back and say 'keep going, you're going to be o.k.' Then, in practice, you pull them aside and say 'you could do this a little different or that a little different,' not that you did this completely wrong."

Blunt said that, in the beginning, she led more by example because her teammates looked up to her for her tireless work ethic.

"But this year I became a lot more vocal," she said, "because I had a goal in mind and I didn't want anything to sidetrack that.

"We developed into a real team my junior and senior seasons. We spent time away from basketball together and became close friends. I think that was because our passion for basketball was so strong and we didn't want to see anybody fail."

Along with the growing of her leadership qualities, Blunt also has worked extremely hard on her physical conditioning.

"As a player, I went from being a scrawny little freshman, who was being pushed around, to being the one that did a lot of the pushing," she said. "I went from being just another player to being the focal point of the offense and the team. That was special, but the thing that I most prized was my ability to step into a leadership role."

Blunt, who went from 130 pounds as a freshman to a solid 154 pounds now, credits her weightlifting coach Aaron Pixley, also Dexter's head football coach, for her strength gains.

"Coach Pixley had a lot to do with that," said Blunt. "He spent a lot of time with me, pushing me, in that weight room. It really helped my game a whole lot."

Following an evaluation at a Southeast Missouri State University basketball camp after her sophomore season, Blunt really began, in earnest, the process that has ultimately led to her signing with the Redhawk program.

"I've spent a lot of time working on my game, especially after that camp at Southeast Missouri State University," she said.

"The coaches told me what I needed to do to get better. They told me I needed to become a better ball handler, develop an outside shot and get stronger. So I took in all that and spent a lot of time in the gym working on it."

As in any journey, any growing process, Blunt's career suffered a few setbacks.

But, true to her character, those down times only served to motivate, not discourage, her.

In the final game of her junior season, the Bearcats, who battled back from a 20-point deficit, suffered a heartbreaking 50-49 loss to Cape Girardeau Notre Dame in the district final.

"I've watched that game tape probably six or seven times this year to try to make sure I stayed motivated," said Blunt, "because I didn't want to feel that feeling that I felt last year…to come so close."

The Bearcats avenged that loss with a 50-40 victory over Notre Dame in the this year's district semifinal.

After claiming the district title, the Bearcats, behind Blunt's 23 points, defeated Potosi 60-40 in the sectional round which advanced them to the state quarterfinals.

"We knew we had to go in and take care of business, but we felt good that if we played well in districts we'd have an opportunity to get to the 'House,' and that was the plan all year," said Blunt.

However, Dexter fell one game short of getting to the Mizzou Arena when they ran into a buzz-saw in the person of talented St. James guard Jennifer Bowen.

Bowen went off for 33 points in a 51-48 Dexter loss.

Said Blunt, who scored a team-high 18 points, "That last game I played against St. James, as I look back, I wish I had taken that last shot."

Blunt is more than "just a jock." Her genuineness, enthusiasm and sincerity shine through.

"She's just an all-around good person and I'm going to miss her off the court as well," said Miller. "She helps me with my summer camps and with the young kids.

"She's just a joy to be around. We've got some big shoes to fill. All the accolades she's received are well-deserved."

In addition to her selection as the Standard Democrat's top female basketball performer of 2005, Blunt is also an All-SEMO Conference, All-Region performer.

"It's a great honor to be chosen, because there's a lot of great players in Southeast Missouri," said Blunt, of her Standard Democrat recognition. "To be chosen as the top one is special."