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Cole lighting it up for James Monroe girls’ team

James Monroe senior Kirastin Cole entered the Yellow Jackets’ season-opener against Middlesex on Dec. 2 needing only four points to become the third girls’ basketball player at the school to reach the 1,000-point mark for her career.

Based on Cole’s average production this season, it should have taken her roughly five minutes to get there, as the guard is scoring a point nearly every 75 seconds.

Rudimentary math aside, Cole has been having an outstanding year and recently cracked our All-Met Watch list by averaging 25.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 4.5 assists per game for James Monroe. She’s also shooting 49 percent from the field, including 32 percent from long range.

“She’s just sort of taken the reins,” said ninth-year Yellow Jackets Coach Julian Bumbrey, whose team has won the past two regular season and district tournament championships, finishing with a 24-4 record last winter. “She has put us on her back.”

Said Cole, "It's a big responsibility, but I like the job."

I talked with Bumbrey on Tuesday afternoon and asked what sort of defensive attention Cole has attracted -- because, you know, she’s averaging more points than I probably scored during my entire basketball career.

Bumbrey said that throughout the team’s 66-58 win over Eastern View on Jan. 5, the Cyclones used a box-and-one against Cole. During a 62-45 loss to Courtland (11-2, 7-0) on Jan. 15, the Cougars tried something new: a 3-2 zone.

“They kept someone out front and in her face,” Bumbrey said. “That stifled us a little bit, but she still did her thing.”

That amounted to a total of 24 points, which is better -- if you’re an opposing defense -- than the 31 points she scored when King George tried to contain the 5-foot-6 Cole with man-to-man pressure. Her career-high in points (35) came during a win over Manassas Park earlier this season.

After starting as a freshman, Cole found herself having to share the basketball with Bilnita Armstead, Connie Harrison-Lewis and Shaneekwa Christopher, three quality players who graduated after last season. Cole, Bumbrey said, could become a bit too deferential and didn’t rely enough on her own natural abilities.

But this season, with a young team -- the Jackets start two freshmen, two sophomores and Cole -- turning to her for both leadership and offense, Cole has delivered on all fronts. And while she’s not thought of as a marquee defender, Bumbrey said that because of her strength, Cole been the team’s best on-the-ball defender, too.

"When we play man-to-man defense, they put me on the other team's best player," Cole said. "It’s tough but I still do it."

Eleven games into the 2008-09 season, Cole's impact on James Monroe's young team has been unmistakable. With a 7-4 overall record and a 3-2 mark inside the Virginia AA Battlefield District, the Yellow Jackets are still very much in the thick of things.

“Even though the pressure is on her, she’s just more relaxed with getting her total game involved,” said Bumbrey, whose team hosts Spotsylvania on Tuesday night at 7. “She knows this is her last year at James Monroe and really wants to go out with a bang.”

By Jason Mackey  |  January 20, 2010; 9:07 AM ET
Categories:  Battlefield District , Girls' Basketball , James Monroe , Region I  
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