(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Charleston junior Kasuela Cooper picked up exactly where she left off a season ago as the Charleston Lady Bluejays' used her efforts to jet past the visiting East Prairie Eagles during their first game of the season on Monday night, 56-28.
Not only was it the Lady Bluejays' first win, but it also gave newly named head coach Josh Thompson his first career victory.
"There could always be a lot of pressure if you lose the first one," Thompson said. "That's my first one, that's our first one and now we got it under our belt. I preached all preseason, I grew up in Charleston, I'm a Charleston person -- we don't like losing to East Prairie.
"It's always great to get your first win," he added, "but right now it means nothing. You have to get your second win and your third win and keep getting better."
Cooper had 17 of her 25 points in the first half. She also pulled down 13 of her 18 rebounds in the first two quarters, eight of which were on the offensive end which she easily stuck back in.
Behind Cooper, Charleston (1-0) built a 15-5 lead after the first quarter and a 30-11 advantage at the half.
"Sometimes our best offensive play is a missed shot and letting (Cooper) go up and get it," Thompson said. "She did great there. But, other people rebounded well especially late in the first half."
With mostly an unexperienced roster, East Prairie's go-to player, Jennifer Nicholson who battled foul trouble early on, was needed to hold her team together. Nicholson committed three fouls in the first half and eventually fouled out in the fourth leaving the Lady Eagles (0-1) to fend for themselves.
Nicholson scored the majority of her team-leading 17 points in the second half when the Lady Bluejays had the game well in hand.
"She had two fouls in the first quarter and then a silly third foul in the second quarter," East Prairie head coach Steven Douglas said. "Jennifer is going to have to carry a big load and she didn't do a very good job tonight. She did okay in the second but the game was over.
"Putting together a team that's never played together is tough and I knew it was going to be rough," Douglas added. "They didn't play very well but, I'm not surprised at this point in the season."
Charleston seniors Taylor Duenne and Jasmine Spence chipped in with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Duenne hit three 3-pointers while Spence scored seven points in the second half.
EAST PRAIRIE (28) -- Rebecca Douglas 2, Caitlyn Harwell 3, Caitlyn Lindsey 4, Jennifer Nicholson 17, Kailey Turner 2. FG 12, FT 3-14, F 18. (3-pointers: Harwell 1. Fouled out: Nicholson.)
CHARLESTON (56) -- Gabrielle Quinn 2, Taylor Duenne 15, Kasuela Cooper 25, Eneikqua Ewing 4, Jasmine Spence 10. FG 24, FT 4-11, F 20. (3-pointers: Duenne 3, Spence 1. Fouled out: Ewing.)