ROGERSVILLE – West Greene’s coaching staff nicknamed her, “The Shooter.” Leading up to Monday night’s non-section matchup against Washington, Pioneers head coach Jordan Watson deemed Prexies junior guard Taylor Ellis the X-factor for the Prexies.
Whenever the 5-0 guard was open from three-point range, the West Greene bench repeatedly yelled, “shooter, shooter, shooter.” The goal was to alert the Pioneers of Ellis being open. It didn’t matter.
Ellis hit three shots from three-point range to spark Wash High in the opening three minutes of the game and finished with a team-high 14 points to lead the Prexies to a 54-34 win over West Greene.
The nickname is well-suited for Ellis. As the smallest player on the court at any given time, she has spent countless hours honing her shot from behind the arc with much of the motivation coming from her father.
“My dad always gets on me about practicing my three-point shot,” Ellis said. “I don’t always have games like that. But when I do, it’s nice seeing the work pay off.”
This game came to fruition just days ago. West Greene needed one more date in order to reschedule Senior Night and to honor senior forward Madison Raber for reaching the 1,000-point milestone Saturday. She was presented a framed jersey.
Fans in the gymnasium rose in applause before the game to recognize Raber, who become the fifth girls player to reach the milestone in school history.
For Wash High (13-8), accepting the invitation to play the Pioneers (11-10) was an easy decision. Competing against a playoff-bound team in Class A beats replacing it with a practice.
Ellis and senior India March combined for 15 first-half points to propel Wash High to a 36-11 halftime lead. March finished with 14 points.
Ellis scoring from the wing was a welcomed sight for Wash High, which has struggled with injuries.
“When Taylor is on, she’s on,” Wash High head coach Mike Maltony said. “We’ve been looking for that all season long, and maybe she is hitting stride at the perfect time with the playoffs approaching.”
The Prexies increased their lead to 27 points less than two minutes into the fourth quarter when a group of West Greene parents began mocking, jeering and attempting to distract the Wash High players. The shenanigans lasted for several minutes.
But the Prexies did not let the antics distract them. They closed out the win and are headed for the playoffs.
“With those fans yelling and the gym being that loud, it felt even better getting that win,” Ellis said.
Raber, her sister Alyssa and fellow senior Emily Courtwright played their final basketball game at West Greene. The senior class has made the playoffs for the third straight season. With two playoff wins under their belt, the group has played in the most playoff games in the history of the program. Madison Raber had a team-high 10 points for the Pioneers.
“We have been playing together since the sixth grade and to see all that we have accomplished is great,” Madison Raber said. “It’s bittersweet with this being my last game here.”
The Prexies are preparing for another playoff run against an opening-round oppoenent that won’t be known until the pairings are released tonight. They finished the season tied for second place in Section 5-AA.
“I’m really excited for the playoffs,” Ellis said. “I hope we make a good run. I do’t want the season to end yet.”