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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Walz-Richey's career all-time scoring record on pace to be broken

Jenkins' Creech needs 365 to surpass Richey

Facebook Photo. Jenkins senior 5-foot-9-inch point guard Whitney Creech could break Jaime Walz-Richey's hallowed Kentucky state scoring mark for boys and girls of 4,948 points by the end of January. Creech is averaging 51.2 points per game through 14 games this season and has 4,584 career points.
Contributed Photo. Highlands Ladybirds basketball Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey (right) is shown with former neighbor and 2007 Highlands graduate Dianna Rafferty (left) during her playing days. Rafferty is sad the record may fall, but she said it's great to see someone of Richey's talent in the game.
It's a case of shock around town that the face of Highlands Ladybirds basketball may no longer hold the most hallowed record in Kentucky high school basketball history by the end of January.

After all, one would have to average about 27.5 points per game over a six-year period with at least 30 games a season to have a shot to break Jaime Walz-Richey's state career scoring record of 4.948 points for both boys and girls set nearly 20 years ago.

But Jenkins Lady Cavaliers senior 5-foot-9-inch point guard Whitney Creech is well on pace to do just that averaging just more than 34 points per game since the start of her eighth grade year. Creech has seen varsity action since her fifth grade year in the 2008-09 campaign when she scored five points. She could also become the first player in state history to score more than 5,000 points in her career.

"I feel like everyone in Fort Thomas knows Jaime Richey as the basketball star and if she doesn't have the record, I feel like it's just weird," said Brianna Adler, Highlands senior guard. "That's her record. But she said in class one day that records are meant to be broken. She's surprised too though."

Through 14 games this season, Creech has 717 points for an average of an astounding 51.2 points per game for a total of 4,584 good for second in Kentucky history. Creech needs to score 365 more points to pass Richey.

"I didn't think that would ever happen," said Jesse "Dirt" Daley, a 2013 Highlands alum and former player. "That's pretty impressive."

The two have never met, but Richey knows what media attention pursuing a big record brings. She passed Geri Grigsby's mark of 4,384 points in front of 3,355 people. Grigsby played at the now-defunct McDowell High located in eastern Kentucky's Floyd County.

Richey's advice to Creech is to focus on team goals and not the record. Highlands won the 9th Region the last three years of Richey's career. After finishing state runner-up in 1994 to the now-defunct M.C. Napier High located in eastern Kentucky's Perry County, the Ladybirds lost to Owensboro Apollo in the first round of the state tournament in 1995 and to Central Hardin in 1996 in the state quarterfinals. Richey also had 1,766 assists in her career.

"When I look back on my career, yes, I think about the scoring record, but I also think about how fortunate I was to play with good teammates," Richey said. "If I was doubled or triple-teamed, I was able to pass them the ball and they could score and I gained as much satisfaction with an assist that I did with points as it was helping our team win. While chasing the record, our team had lots of media attention, but my teammates knew I wanted to win the game and didn't care about when I broke the record as our ultimate goal was to get back to the state tournament."

Jenkins has not made the 14th Region Tournament during Creech's time on varsity nor has it made the All "A" State Tournament. The Lady Cavaliers last made the region tournament in 2008 and last won the All "A" 14th Region Tournament in 1999.

"It would mean a lot if we got over that hump," Creech said. "Two years ago, we lost in the All "A" region championship (81-60 to Leslie County). Last year, we lost by five to get to the region tournament (a 58-53 loss to Knott County Central in the 53rd District). We get closer every year."

But Jenkins Head Coach Ashley Addington said that has not been an issue. Jenkins is 7-7 coming off a 102-92 double-overtime loss at June Buchanan on Saturday. Creech scored 63 before fouling out.

"She could throw up 50 points, but if we lose, she's probably more disappointed than anyone else on the team. She just wants to win," Addington said. "My assistant coach (Kayla Bentley) and I both said we're really glad it wasn't us doing this because we probably would have walked around with a big head. I've never seen anybody who has that talent that can carry it so well. Anytime she's hit a milestone and we've had to stop a game, she's like, 'Okay, can we play now? You're supposed to give the ball to the player. She always gives it back to us."

Creech averaged 21.3 points per game in the eighth grade while Richey averaged 24.3 as both an eighth-grader and freshman. Richey's numbers grew to 27.8 as a sophomore then a state-best 34.4 her junior year before capping off her career at 27 as a senior.

Creech averaged 30.2 as a freshman, 34.4 as a sophomore before leading the nation with 42 per game last year. The big reason Creech has had to score more to increase Jenkins chances of winning is school size and not much depth.

Creech has scored 50 or more points 14 times in her career and 60 or more six times. Creech's career-high is 65 points. She went 22-of-34 from the floor including 1-of-2 from three-point range when Jenkins beat Jackson County, 90-78 on Dec. 22 this year to score that total.

"Obviously, anyone who is scoring 50 points per game continuously is very impressive," said Katie Allen, a 2010 Highlands alum and former player. "For her to be able to do that is very interesting to see."

Creech's season-low is 33 points in a 70-61 loss to Macon County (Tennessee) in the Smoky Mountain Classic at Gatlinburg-Pittman High (Tennessee). She has been held under 20 just five times since her eight-grade season started. But she's had none of those since scoring just 19 in a Valentine's Day 70-55 loss at Pike County Central on Feb. 14, 2013 her freshman season.

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The previous record for most times scoring 50 or more points in a game was six held by former Paintsville player Glenna VanHoose. Richey's career-high was 60 against Conner in 1995. Grigsby still holds the record for the most points in a game with 81 against Feds Creek in 1975.

Grigsby, Richey and Creech are the three girls players to score 4,000-plus points in their career. The only boys' player to reach that feat was Wayland's "King" Kelly Coleman with 4,337 in the 1950s.

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The Lady Cavaliers have nine players on the roster with six seniors including Creech. Highlands has more than that on its bench on most nights.

One of the players just returned from injury for Jenkins. The next leading scorer for the Lady Cavaliers is senior forward/post Alexis Stambaugh at 9.9 points per game including 19 triples on the season. Sophomore forward Emilee Rose averages 7.4 points and has 31 three-pointers.

Addington said Creech has done well finding her teammates and knows things could really open up for Creech once the teammates consistently hit more shots. The Lady Cavaliers have to spread teams out offensively with no true post players. Creech is one of the tallest players on the team.

Creech scores a lot of her points in transition and rebounds. Creech averages 17.2 rebounds per game and has made 163-of-199 free throws this year for nearly 82 percent.

Creech said she likes to grab the ball and race toward the basket before teams set up their defenses. Addington said teams play zone defenses and try to slow the ball down against Jenkins. Addington also said teams sometimes play box-and-one defenses against her and have even thrown double and triple-teams at her. But Creech often slides past opponents going to the basket or shoots over them inside the three-point line going to her strong left hand.

Richey scored her points a number of ways. She also had 539 career three-pointers and 1,766 career rebounds.

The family of Dianna Rafferty, a 2007 Highlands graduate, were neighbors with Richey's parents. Rafferty attended a lot of Richey's games with her blanket. Rafferty was in Kindergarten and the first grade when Richey was a junior and senior respectively.

"I think it is great for women's high school basketball to have a player of Jaime's caliber in the game," Rafferty said. "But for me personally, it will be sad because I think Jaime is one of the best women's basketball players in history."

About Jenkins and the Lady Cavaliers:

Jenkins is located in southeastern Kentucky in Letcher County near the Virginia line. Jenkins is in between Pikeville and Whitesburg.

The other four district opponents of Jenkins are Letcher County Central, Knott County Central, June Buchanan and Cordia. The Letcher County Central Lady Cougars have won the 53rd District four years in a row and claimed the 14th Region crowns in 2013 and 2015. But the Lady Cougars are struggling at 4-10 so far this year. Jenkins is 0-2 in district play.

The 2010 census for the town was 2,203. Like a lot of southeastern Kentucky, the population has dwindled over the years with the loss of coal mining jobs. The highest population census recorded came at 9,428 in 1940. Thus, Addington said the pursuit of Richey's record has brought Jenkins into a positive light. Creech even has a street sign with her name on it entering Jenkins from Pike County.

"Her name is finally getting out there because of social media," Addington said. "I think it's kind of a shock when we walk into places and they see Jenkins on our shirt. It's a good thing now. The players are her sisters and best friends. They love it for her and how hard she's worked for it. It's been a real big positive for everybody."

Creech could have transferred to one of the bigger schools in the 14th Region such as Perry County Central. The Commodores have won the 14th Region nine times in the last 17 years including three of the last six. But Creech could not leave the people she grew up with behind.

"It means a lot," Creech said. "When I was pressured a lot to go to a bigger school, I was offered state championships, region championships, district championships. But life is bigger than basketball. I have supportive friends and a supportive community. To be able to stay here and give back to the community is an honor."

Perry County Central has the state's all-time winningest girls coach in Randy Napier. He led M.C. Napier High to the 1994 state championship over Highlands when Richey was a sophomore before M.C. Napier consoidated into PCC.

Jenkins reported 191 students including just 80 girls for the 2013-14 school year to the KHSAA. Letcher County Central reported 941 students with 449 girls that same season.

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The Western Kentucky University connection:

Richey is glad to see Creech attend her alma mater of Western Kentucky University. In her four years in Bowling Green, the Lady Toppers went 91-35 and made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Western Kentucky lost to Arizona in the first round her freshman year before losing to undefeated and eventual national champion Tennessee in the second round her sophomore year and Duke in the second round her senior year after beating Marquette. Richey hit a crucial three-pointer in that win over Marquette.

Richey endured a lot of adversity during her college career including tearing her Anterior Cruciated Ligament as a junior. But she averaged 15.6 points her senior year and finished her career at Western Kentucky with 1,044 career points.

The Lady Toppers have surged back into the NCAA Tournament the last two years under the guidance of Michelle Clark-Heard. After going 9-21 in the 2011-12 campaign, Western Kentucky has gone 76-25 in Clark-Heard's three seasons as head coach.

"I felt real comfortable with the coaching staff and where I'll be playing for four years," Creech said. "I like the direction the program is going in."

The Lady Toppers beat East Carolina before losing to Auburn in the second round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament in 2012-13 before winning the Sun Belt and Conference USA Tournaments respectively the last two seasons. Western lost to Baylor two years ago and Texas last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Richey knows Clark-Heard because she served as an assistant at the University of Louisville under her older brother Jeff Walz for five years. Louisville made some deep tournament runs during that time including a national runner-up finish in 2009.

"Michelle is an unbelievable coach and person," Richey said. "She has assembled a great coaching staff that is getting the best players they can and developing these players into even better players. As a former Lady Topper, it's great to see another former Topper doing so well coaching at the school we attended."

Creech said she'd like to improve her defense and three-point shooting before going to Bowling Green. Creech has made 16-of-63 three-point tries this year for 25.4 percent. But she'd like to improve that percentage to 40 percent.

Jenkins next plays Letcher County Central at home on Friday at 6 p.m. The Lady Cavaliers then battle Leslie County in the All "A" 14th Region Tournament on Tuesday at the same time.

Meanwhile, Highlands (11-3 overall) takes on Walton-Verona on Thursday at home. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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