Eighth Region’s Player of the Year lives, plays by Senior Night Scripture
By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — It’s not hard to tell when Jaclynn Ruble is locked in to the task at hand.
Sometime early in a game, the girls’ Eighth Region Player of the Year subtly tilts or lowers her head, then takes some defender to the basket. Chances are very good that Ruble will get the basket or get fouled.
It’s so natural that you don’t even have to look for it. It happens every single game. The question is never if Jaclynn Ruble is focused.
“I have seen it,” he coach, Clay Birdwhistell smiles when asked about the telltale sign Ruble is ready to go. “I have seen it in games, but I see it before games in the locker room. The neat thing about Jaclynn is there are plenty of times I have to put the reins on a bit, but I never have to rev her up. She is one who is going to play hard every night. I never have to worry about that.
“Her posture gets a little different. She gets real quiet, but you know she is going to show up.”
In a way, it is an extension of the Bible verse Ruble had written on the hoop she came through on Anderson’s Senior Night.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV).
She doesn’t flaunt her deep faith but one look at her Twitter feed lets one know it’s important. Ruble often posts Scripture or positive thoughts that define the attitude that makes her a winner in life.
At 5-foot-7, Jaclynn Ruble is never the biggest person on the court. She’s rarely the fastest or most athletic. Her shot far from textbook form, even though it goes in. But there is no fear in her game. None.
It’s a competitive spirit that separates the good from the excellent in the athletic arena. And Jaclynn Ruble has it in abundance.
“I have a point guard who just decides she is going to get five offensive rebounds and she gets five offensive rebounds,” Birdwhistell smiles.
Those who have watched Anderson County for the last five years saw Ruble getting varsity minutes as an eighth-grader. The Lady Bearcats made the Eighth Region final that year before losing to Simon Kenton. Losses in the regional opener and semi-finals followed before the Lady Bearcats fell to Simon Kenton again in the regional championship game last March.
In that one, Ruble poured in 27 points but had people talking about the immeasurable quantity of competitive spirit she left on the floor that night. She openly wept as she and her teammates awaited their regional runner-up trophy.
In 2019, Anderson is the one expected to break Simon Kenton’s reign on the Eighth Region.
“We think about that game every single day,” Ruble says of last year’s regional final. “If we are having a bad practice, I just think this could be the practice that I need to work on something to be ready for the Eighth Region final.
It’s an attitude that has become expected of Ruble. Never was it more evident than in her team’s win over Mercer County in the final home game of her career. Mercer had sliced a 12-point lead to seven midway through the third quarter. Anderson appeared to be reeling just a bit, when a teammate passed to Ruble at the top of the key.
Ruble looked for her shot, then hesitated just enough to elude a Mercer defender. Then Ruble pulled the trigger.
Swish. All was suddenly right in the Lady Bearcat world again as Anderson’s lead never dipped below eight points again. Earlier in the year, it was two free throws with 17 seconds left that lifted the Lady Bearcats past Bowling Green in the Queen of the Bluegrass Tournament at Bullitt East.
Anderson had hit only 5-of-18 free throws when Ruble went to the line with the outcome very much in doubt. “We weren’t making them but I stepped up to the line whether we were making them or not. I had confidence in myself,” Ruble said at the time.
Birdwhistell said at the time he would take Ruble in such a situation “any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”
Ruble admits such times are part of her package. “I love that situation,” she said as the regular season was winding down. “I have a really competitive streak and I like to be in that situation.”
But it’s about the team first. Earlier this year, Ruble passed 1,000 points for her career but Birdwhistell tweeted that she did not want to be recognized since it could be a distraction for the team.
“You know Jaclynn will always show up,” Birdwhistell says. “That doesn’t mean she is going to hit all of her shots every time, but you know that she is going to make special plays that nobody else is going to make.”
Chances are she will find herself needing to make the big play with her team’s season and her high school career on the line over the next month. While Anderson is heavily favored to win the 30th District, the Eighth Region is another matter. In the Rating the State rankings, the Lady Bearcats and Simon Kenton have been very close all season while Walton-Verona could be a threat and Oldham County defeated Anderson on the Lady Bearcats’ home court in December.
“I think we are starting to do a lot of things the right way, a lot of the small things the right way,” Ruble says. “I thought the Grant County game (a 70-32 road win on Jan. 29) was the turning point in our season. We had a really good defensive night that night.”
Anderson stands at 24-6 and is riding an eight-game winning streak going into Wednesday’s 30th District opener with Shelby County, a team Anderson defeated by 60 and 45 points this year. “We know that every game, now our season is on the line,” Ruble says. “We have to beat Shelby and then we would play a really good Collins team or a really good Spencer County team (in the district final). Every game is going to be a battle.”
Ruble might have been a bit of a surprise winner of the regional Player of the Year honors, but she was a solid No. 2 pick in The Cats’ Pause pre-season poll of the region’s coaches. She’s the third Anderson player to win the KABC award — Makenzie Cann and Kaci Currens are the others — and will be the fourth Anderson candidate for Miss Basketball, joining Cann, Currens and Eriel McKee.
They are huge honors in the sport Jaclynn Ruble loves, but basketball is not number one in her life.
“I love basketball,” she says. “I love my family and friends, but God is first in my life.”
And there’s no competition for that spot.