MONA SHORES- It’s never easy to follow in the footsteps of a conference and district championship team, especially when you lose as many players to graduation as Mona Shores did in the spring.
Yet the Sailors made it look easy on Tuesday night when junior standout Khaleeya Cook scored 18 points in a 43-25 win over Allendale in the season opener at Mona Shores High School.
The victory was the 50th of Mona Shores coach Mike Phillips’ career.
“It’s one of those things where it wasn’t even on the radar,” said Phillips, who is beginning his fifth season with the Sailors. “The whole focus was on Allendale and getting a home opening win. But It’s pretty cool. It’s also the 50th anniversary of our program.”
The Sailors got out ahead quickly, leading 10-4 after the first quarter on the back of a pair of triples from sisters Katie and Ali Phillips.
Mona Shores had a 7-0 run in the second quarter and led 24-9 at halftime.
Allendale started getting some traction in the third quarter, before Mona Shores’ strong inside defense and a triple from Cook allowed the Sailors to keep a 32-19 cushion heading into the fourth.
Cook scores six of Mona Shores’ 11 points in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve known that (Cook) has been something special ever since I first saw her in the seventh grade,” Coach Phillips said. “She just has a knack for the ball. She’s just such an awesome kid.”
Cook will be a very important piece to the Sailors’ puzzle this season following her impressive All-Conference sophomore campaign. She is the only returning starter from last year’s team, which won a share of the O-K Green conference title and a Division 1 district championship.
“Not only is she a great basketball player with a really high IQ, she’s also a great teammate,” Phillips said. “She’s the first kid up and cheering for one of her teammates to score. It’s definitely huge to have a kid with the ball in her hands as much as she did last year be able to lead us again this year.”
Though Cook’s play is important to the Sailors, Mona Shores will need production out of some of its newcomers, which it got Tuesday night from sophomore Katie Phillips, who posted 14 points, including three triples.