West Union, Manchester, Peebles, and North Adams give fans a sneak peek at the upcoming season –
By Mark Carpenter –
It was a small sample, but an enticing sample last Friday evening as the 10 girls basketball squads from the Southern Hills Athletic Conference gathered at North Adams High School for the 2017-18 SHAC Girls Basketball Preview, with the new format of having the preview match ups determined by the earlier poll of the coaches. A full house of ladies’ hoops fans got a glimpse, albeit a short one, of the SHAC squads that should put together another exciting season on the hardwood.
The first Adams County team to take the court opened the preview play ( two quarters in each contest) was the West Union Lady Dragons, who are small in numbers but high in energy. The Lady Dragons faced off with the Whiteoak Lady Wildcats, with both teams having something to prove, having been picked by the coaches to finish at the bottom of the SHAC standings.
West Union got off to great start, getting a pair of treys from Kiersten Rowe to grab an 8-3 advantage. The Lady Dragons also got a huge first quarter contribution from their bench, as senior Sianna Mills score three baskets, two on offensive boards, and West Union led 14-5 after one.
The second stanza began with Kaley Daniels drilling a three from the top of the key to give West Union a double digit lead and the roll for the Lady Dragons continued with a stick back score by Haley Daniels, plus a bucket in transition from Jaycee Baldwin to finish the two quarter preview on top 24-8.
Rowe and Mills led the Lady Dragons with six points apiece, with Haley Daniels adding four. Whiteoak was paced by five points from sophomore Cylee Bratton.
“The girls are coming together and I think we will be competitive,” said second-year West Union head coach J.R, Kirker. “We have to try to work hard for an open shot and we’re not the greatest shooters but if we can work the ball inside out, I think we will be alright.”
The Lady Dragons were strong on the boards in the preview, something Coach Kirker was happy to see. “We’ve had three scrimmages where we forgot to rebound, so last night at practice that is about all we did,” said the WUHS head coach. “We rebounded the ball very well tonight.”
Next to the court were two of the youngest squads in the SHAC as Coach Vohn Hoop and the Manchester Lady Hounds faced off with the Ripley Lady Jays. The Lady Hounds sport five freshmen on the varsity, three of whom started at the preview, and in the first quarter, the jitters were obvious on both sides as points were hard to come by. All that Manchester could muster in the first eight minutes was two baskets by freshman Brooke Kennedy and Ripley led 6-4.
To open the second period, the Lady Hounds scored the first eight points, getting buckets from C. J. Hobbs and Darrington White and a three-point goal by Josie Campbell. The Lady Jays reeled off the next four, but a pair of Kennedy free throws with 1:28 left gave Manchester a 14-10 win.
Kennedy led the Lady Hounds with six points, with White and Campbell adding three each. Ripley got five points each from Cailey Kirk and Carlee Daulton.
“We have to understand that we have to play hard every night,” said Coach Hoop in his postgame radio interview. “I run a little different system than these young players are used to and they have to buy into it. If they buy into the philosophy, we can be successful. We might be able to go eight or nine deep and that’s exciting.”
After Eastern Brown rolled past Fayetteville 35-10, the next preview match up looked intriguing on paper and turned out to be the most interesting of the night as the Peebles Lady Indians battled the Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs. Both teams go into the season with high expectations and their two quarters of preview action did nothing to dispel that thought.
The first quarter of action was a nice exhibition of long-range artillery with the two teams combining to nail five shots from beyond the three-point arc. Three of those bombs belonged to Peebles- McKinlee Ryan, Baylee Justice, and Jerilin Toller. The Lady Mustangs got treys from Zoe Fittro and Peyton Scott and led after one period, 12-11.
A second Fittro trey opened the second quarter as the Lady Mustangs opened up a 20-13 advantage, a string broken on a short jumper by Peebles’ Tatum Arey. Back to back threes by Jacey Justice and Toller pulled the Lady Indians within 22-21 and another Toller long distance strike tied the score at 24 with one minute left. Scott hit a three to give Lynchburg the lead back and when a long three-point attempt by Peebles’ Harlee Wilkinson found the net but came just after the buzzer, the Lady Mustangs escaped with a 27-24 win.
Toller’s 11 points led the Lady Indians, with Justice adding five. Lynchburg was led by Scott with 15 and Fittro with nine.
“If I knew coming in, we’d end up lie that, I ‘d be happy,” said Peebles head coach Billie Jo Justice. “Our kids were so nervous before we started but I told them just to have fun and enjoy it. I was real happy with Jerilin Toller tonight and we have been working a lot with all of our outside shooters. Lynchburg is tough with that zone, they spread it out and move so well. When we started moving the ball a little quicker, we started to get off some better shots.”
“We know that we can compete with Lynchburg in the regular season.”
The final match up of the night also proved to be an entertaining one and a foreshadowing of what should be an exciting regular season contest. The two teams picked by the coaches to win the big and small school divisions of the SHAC faced off, the host North Adams Lady Devils and the Fairfield Lady Lions. Both teams are solid and talented and for two quarters on Friday night, they traded blows back and forth in action where both coaches used everyone on their roster.
After Fairfield got the half’s first score, the. Lady Devils answered with a Madee Shipley three-pointer for their first lead. A later trey by Brooklyn Stout put the home team up 8-6 and baskets by Avery Harper and Lakyn Hupp extended the lead out to 12-8. The Lady Lions battled back with a 6-2 run to tie the score at 14 at the end of the first quarter.
A bucket by Fairfield’s talented freshman Samara Cannon began the second quarter but North Adams responded with an Avery Harper free throw and then a three from here sister, freshman Delaney Harper. A three ball by Hupp put North Adams up 21-18 and Shipley’s second trey of the game kept the hosts on top 26-21 when the horn sounded to end the preview.
Hupp led the Lady Devils with seven points, with Shipley adding six, and the winners got five apiece from the Harper sisters. The Lady Lions were led by their dynamic duo of Grace Shope and Canon, who scored 12 and six points respectively.
“These match ups are more fun to watch and more competitive,” said North Adams head coach Rob Davis, speaking on the new preview format.
“We have a lot of depth and mobility this year and can exchange girls around at different spots,” said Davis. “We have eight seniors so hopefully their leadership will take over for us.