On Thursday night, the teams met. McConnellsburg knew it was a must-win game if it hoped to move ahead of the Lady Tigers in the rankings. McConnellsburg junior Jessi Keefer had a career-day, scoring 17 points and taking 15 off the glass.
She led the Spartans to a 65-59 victory, which should have serious playoff implications. Because of her dominance this week, Keefer is the Public Opinion Female Athlete of the Week.
"Right now, it doesn't look like Southern Fulton is coming down from No. 1, so we want to avoid them," Spartan coach Dave Garland said. "I told them if we want to control our own fate here, we need to start winning and winning now. They've all, especially Jessi, kind of buckled down and given it a little bit extra that sometimes you need."
To start the week, the Spartans (9-8) suffered a commanding loss to Northern Bedford, 74-36, on Tuesday. But Keefer stood out, scoring more than half of McConnellsburg's points with a season-high 20 points and taking down eight rebounds.
After Thursday's double-double, she also led the Spartans in scoring with 17 points in a 51-45 victory over James Buchanan.
Entering the season, most expected senior Nikki Fleming to be the top scorer. She was a P.O. Second Team All-Star and averaged 9.1 points per game last season. Although Fleming has had a solid year, averaging 8.8 ppg, Keefer has emerged as the team's leading scorer.
"I was just tired of not really scoring a lot," Keefer said. "My team told me to try to work a little harder because they knew I could get better. Their support has really helped me."
For the season, Keefer has scored a total of 206 points for an average of 12.1. She has also been a threat from beyond the arc, especially in this week. Against Northern Bedford, Keefer led the Spartans with three 3-pointers, and she has scored one in both games since.
"She's always had that kind of range, she just hadn't really taken many threes until recently," Garland said. "In the last couple of weeks, she's expanded her scoring range. She's had several big threes, and she can score around the basket both right- or left-handed. That's tough to do."
Although the Spartans have a long road ahead of them still, Keefer said her ultimate goal is to continue winning and hopefully take it to a district title.
"We just need to take it one game at a time to get there," Keefer said. "Other teams around us work better together, so we need to work on that, and hopefully we'll be good."
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessi Keefer, McConnellsburg
Sport: Girls basketball
Parents: Tammy and Derrick Keefer
Interests: Keefer also plays volleyball and softball for the Spartans.
Surprising fact: She keeps a lucky penny in her sock during games.
Favorite pro team: Miami Heat
Pro athlete most admired: Lebron James
Most influential person in athletic career: Heidi Johnston, McConnellsburg's volleyball coach.
Statistics: Keefer scored 54 points (18 ppg) in 3 games to lead the Spartans to a 2-1 record last week She added 31 rebounds and scored a double-double (17 points, 15 rebounds) in a 65-59 win against Fannett-Metal.