What Wilson Central girls basketball player Kendall Spray accomplished last season was nothing short of exceptional.
What the senior sharpshooter has done this season for the unbeaten Lady Wildcats (14-0) has been even better.
“I’ve been doing this for 26 years and I’ve never had a shooter like her, and I don’t think I’ll ever have one like her again,” Wilson Central coach John Wild said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of good basketball players, but nobody who could shoot the ball like that.”
That’s high praise coming from one of just three Tennessee high school basketball coaches to win both a boys and girls state championship.
Spray, who knocked down a TSSAA-record 139 3-pointers a season ago and also tied the record for most consecutive 3-pointers in a game (8) last season, has picked up where she left off, making this season’s opponents pay with outstanding perimeter shooting.
With already 83 made 3-pointers to her credit this season, the UT Martin signee is on pace to not only break her own record from a season ago but completely shatter it. And perhaps the most impressive thing about Spray’s lights-out 3-point shooting and 25.8 point-per-game average is that she hasn’t been able to surprise anyone this season.
Despite routinely receiving opposing teams’ full attention, it hasn’t seemed to matter for Spray, who has scored in double-figures in 44 of her last 46 outings.
“More people are playing me in my face and they’re not letting me touch the ball as much,” said Spray, who hit a state-record 14 3-pointers and finished with a career-best 54 points in last month’s 88-40 rout of previously unbeaten Harpeth Hall. “Coach Wild still finds way to get me the ball.”
“We’ll work on that stuff (in practice) where they’re just playing no-catch, no-help defense on her, trying to simulate situations where we have to find ways to score the ball,” Wild added. “It’s an everyday thing.”
Take last week’s Overton Christmas tournament semifinal against Antioch for example. The Lady Bears, in the midst of a five-game winning streak, game-planned almost exclusively to stop Spray. It seemed to work, too, as she started just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc, eventually finishing with 16 points.
The problem was that all the attention paid to Spray allowed opportunities for teammates Addison Byrd and Taylor Tucker, who combined to score 23 points in the 47-36 win.
“We’ve grown as a team through that, and I think we’ve gotten better at it,” Wild said. “We still need to get a lot better. It’ll be staring us in the face in January and February, and we’ve just got to be ready for it.”
More often than not, Spray has found ways to overcome the added attention. She’s already tallied five 30-point scoring performances this season and has only finished with less than 20 on three occasions.
In fact, District 9-AAA foe Lebanon is the only team to hold Spray to single digits in the past 12 months when the Lady Blue Devils limited her to three points during a mid-December contest. Before that, it had been since Jan. 13, 2015 since she was held to below 10.
“We just tried to not let her have any space,” said first-year Lebanon coach Cory Barrett, whose squad limited Spray to just one 3-pointer in the 50-42 defeat. “(Her 3-pointer) was in the fourth quarter, I believe, and if you’re playing someone you’d consider a ‘normal player,’ it was great defense. She doesn’t need much room and she really doesn’t even need to have her feet set.
“She’s the best shooter in the state of Tennessee”
In the six games since, Spray has piled up 175 points and 42 3-pointers.
“I think what makes her so good is that she’s just ready for her next shot,” Wild said. “Whether she’s missed one or missed two or missed three in a row, it’s like she’s made three in a row. I think she’s just got a mentality that a lot of kids don’t have shooting the ball.
“That’s the kind of kid you want in your corner.”
School: Wilson Central (14-0)
Position: Shooting guard
Career points: 1,499 (17.2 per game)
Career 3-pointers: 306 (3.5 per game)