All 10 conference squads on display for a half –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
The official kickoff to the 2016-17 girls basketball season came last Friday night at North Adams High School as the Seaman school for the umpteenth time in a row hosted the annual Southern Hills Athletic Conference Girls Preview Night. All 10 SHAC girls squads were on display in an opportunity for fans to get their first glimpses of their favorite teams and coaches a chance to see their team in competition other than the usual practice time.
The night kicked off with the prohibitive SHAC favorite Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs defeating Fairfield in their two quarters of play, and then the first new head coach in Adams County took the court as Coach Billie Jo Justice brought her Peebles Lady Indians to face off with the Fayetteville Lady Rockets.
The Lady Indians will have a different style of play this season and that was evident early as their fast-paced, up and down style pushed them to an early double digit advantage. Most of the damage was done by freshman Tatum Arey, who poured in 10 first quarter points as her team raced ahead 13-2. After a bucket by Fayetteville’s Cecilia Murphy, Peebles’ Baylee Justice drained a three from the top of the key and the first eight minutes ended with the Lady Indians on top 16-4.
Perhaps with the big lead, the Peebles girls let down their guard a bit as the lady Rockets battled back in the second period. After baskets by Peebles’ McKinlee Ryan and Jerilin Toller made it 20-8, Fayetteville went on a 9-0 run and closed within three on an old-fashioned three-point play by Murphy with 1:54 left. With 49 seconds to go, a pair of free throws by Ryan held off the comeback by the Lady Rockets and gave Peebles the 22-17 preview win.
Arey led the winners with her 10 points, while Ryan added 7. Fayetteville was topped by Murphy’s 13 point performance.
“It’s good to be around a group of kids who are enthusiastic about the game of basketball,” said Coach Justice in her postgame radio interview. “It’s all about learning the game and having fun with the game and that is kind of what we are geared towards now. Our goal is just to be positive and get the kids excited.”
“I like our offense to have a lot of movement and cutting and the kids aren’t real used to that yet, and using all that energy might explain why we faded a little tonight in the second quarter. We just need to keep playing hard and learn some of the natural instincts of the game. If we do that, we will continue to improve.”
After the next match up which saw the Ripley Lady Jays cruise past Whiteoak, the next new, but not new face, head coach in Adams County came to the court as Coach Vohn Hoop and his Manchester Lady Greyhounds battled for two quarters with a tall task in the highly rated in the SHAC Eastern Lady Warriors.
For years, the Lady Warriors have been known as one of the top defensive teams in the area and this year’s bunch under the guidance of Coach Kevin Pickerill looks to be no different and they made an early statement against the Lady Hounds, holding Manchester to just a pair of C.J. Hobbs free throws in the first 14 minutes of action.
Those two free tosses tied the game early at 2 but the Lady Warriors, led by the duo of Allison Day and Alexa Pennington, finished the first quarter on a 13-0 run, which extended into the second stanza after a steal and layup by Jensen Sowers and a bucket by Mikayla Farris. Two stick back scores by Day and another Pennington basket made it 26-2 in favor of Eastern.
The Lady Hounds finally broke a scoring drought of over 11 minutes by getting back to back three-pointers from Hobbs and Darrington White. Eastern’s Day provided the half’s final two baskets as the horn sounded with the Lady Warriors on top 30-8.
Day topped Eastern Brown with 11 points, with Pennington adding 8, while the Lady Hounds were paced by Hobbs with 5.
“The season just seems to creep up on you so fast and we definitely have some work to do,” said Coach Hoop in his radio interview after the half of play. “In all fairness to our kids, I am the fifth coach they have had in five years and another different scheme they have to learn. Giving up 30 points in a half is unacceptable but I understand they are still in the thinking stage of what I am wanting them to do and it will take us awhile to get there but we will get there. We will get it worked out and we will get a lot better.”
“It takes awhile to learn my system and we had some bad breakdowns tonight. We are learning a new offensive system too and we will have to be patient and get it going. The kids have been great as well as everyone in Manchester. I think everyone knows that we can’t fix things overnight.”
The final match up of Preview Night showcased two Adams County teams, though the showcase turned out to be rather one-sided. Another new head coach in the county, West Union’s J.R. Kirker and his Lady Dragons faced off with the host North Adams Lady Devils and it is safe to say that the debut was not the one that Kirker was hoping for. As North Adams head coach Rob Davis put it, “we could have kicked it tonight and it was going in,” as the Lady Devils drilled eight three-pointers in the two quarters of play and rolled to a 53-9 win.
“Everybody in the SHAC is getting better and it’s always a good league,” said Coach Davis after the game. “We will have to hit some outside shots to be successful and we did that tonight. If we shoot like that with our big girls inside, we will be fine. Everyone on this team can give me minutes if I need them to, which is a nice thing to have. I’m really not afraid to put any of them in the game.”
“I think we are ready for the season, the kids are excited. If we play hard and guard people, we will be in games.”
The onslaught began early as North Adams’ Taylor Hesler began the game with five quick points before West Union got on the board with a basket by senior Shannon Runyan. Unfortunately for the Lady Dragons, that was the only time they got on the board in the first eight minutes as North Adams reeled off the next 21 points, a stretch that included a trio of three-point goals by Madee Shipley as well as another long bomb from Caitlin Young and the first period ended with the home team up 26-2.
As if the first quarter wasn’t enough, the Lady Devils continued to frustrate West Union on both ends and scored the first 19 points of the second frame, beginning with a three-pointer by Grace McDowell and followed up by a pair of buckets in the paint from Avery Harper and then back to back baskets by Lakyn Hupp. West Union finally broke the long dry spell for their offense when Mackenzie Bickett drilled a three from deep.
North Adams would get its eighth trey of the half from Brooklyn Young with 40 seconds left, followed by a basket by West Union’s Haley Daniels and free throw from Kaylee Welch to account for the final count of 53-9 North Adams.
Of the 13 players dressed on Friday night for the Lady Devils, 12 of them got in the scoring column, led by Harper with 10 and Shipley with 9. Hesler and McDowell each added 7. West Union got 2 points each from Haley Daniels, Runyan, Harley Silvia, and Sianna Mills.
“Our kids are great, I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls,” Coach Kirker told C103 Radio after the preview. “We didn’t show it tonight but we have had a couple of scrimmages where we really came to play but tonight it just wasn’t there. In order to win, we have to play as a team because I don’t have any big scorer that might out up 30 points but I have some average scorers that could put me up 10-15 a night.”
“I beat it in their head every day that this is a new season and we can’t worry about the past. We have a small team so rebounding is going to be so important for us this year and we will really be hitting the box-out in practice. We have to be able to handle pressure or turnovers will kill us and we just have to show up to play every night.”
With one more week of practice under their belt, all four county squads now look to the beginning of the regular season. The Manchester Lady Hounds will kick it off on Friday, Nov. 25 when they face Zane Trace in the first day of the Paint Valley Classic. The next morning at Paint Valley, the West Union Lady Dragons will face Huntington, while on Saturday afternoon, the Peebles lady Indians will open up with a home contest with Felicity. The final county squad to open regular season play will be North Adams, as the Lady Devils will host Paint Valley on Tuesday, Nov. 29.