Since the Henry County Ladycats can’t rely on senior leadership this basketball season, they will turn their attention to aggressive play and team chemistry to earn more wins during the 2008-09 campaign.
The Ladycats, who have zero seniors and four juniors, on paper appear to be inexperienced, but they actually have a lot of players with quality playing time coming back. Juniors Kelsey Mings, Brittany Crawford and Kelley Everidge, and sophomores Jessica Booher, Taylor Clark and Tyler Sadler will be the key players — the six projected to be in the starting lineup — along with junior Ally Taylor and freshman Ally Vaughn off the bench. The Cats are coming off a season that saw them finish with an 8-19 record and lose to Owen County (56-36) in the first round of the 31st District tournament.
“We’ve been working hard but we still have a lot of things we need to work on to get better,” head coach Todd Gilley said just a week away from his team’s opening game. “If I didn’t feel that way at this point in the season, though, then I would be worried. We have been improving and I feel like we are already better at this point than we were last year.”
With no seniors, one of the biggest obstacles will be finding players to turn to for that vital role as team leader both on and off the court. But the one area this team has not struggled with is team chemistry, Gilley said. They all enjoy playing and being around each other daily.
“We have zero seniors so our juniors are trying to close that gap and do senior things,” Gilley explained. “I think we’re young but I also think we’re experienced. We lost just one senior from last year’s team and a lot of our players got a lot of experience. At the same time, we aren’t as physically matured as some teams might be so that’s something we need to work around.”
One big disadvantage for the Ladycats will be their height. They have tons of guards that can come in and out of the game consistently but have little depth in the post. Part of the time, the two Henry guards will be the tallest on the court for the Ladycats. And there might be times when all five Henry players are shorter than all five of their opponents.
“Rebounding is definitely a concern because we just aren’t very tall,” Gilley said. “We’re going to have to block out really well and do the things that it takes to get to loose balls. We do feel like we pass the ball better and our shooting has improved, so that helps.”
Gilley said his team might press or fall back in a half-court set — whichever is best for each individual situation. Most likely, they will spread the court more, use the gaps and attack the basket.
Individually, the top returning players are Mings, Booher, Crawford and Everidge. Mings has started at point guard since her eighth grade season and has provided a passing and scoring threat, Booher developed into a deadly outside shooter as a freshman last season, and Crawford and Everidge will be the team’s top two players in the post. Henry will most likely go seven to eight deep each game.
Last year, the Ladycats defeated Model (48-38), Gallatin County (55-53), Owen County (42-36), Eminence (46-9), Kentucky Country Day (37-35), Beechwood (58-29), Grant County (50-39) and Eminence (69-16). They lost 19 other games to finish with their fourth straight losing season. The last winning season came in 2003-04 when the Cats went 20-7.
Henry will open its season this week at the Lady Spartan Invitational and finish the regular-season schedule against Trimble County Feb. 16 before the postseason starts.
One change this year will be the Ladycats participation in the 8th Region All “A” Classic, which will start Jan. 13. This is the first year Henry has been eligible to compete in the All “A” since the late 1990s. That tournament, and the 31st District tournament, will be the focuses of the season, along with a winning year.
“We sit down that first day of practice and set some realistic goals,” Gilley said. “We want to have a winning season, win the regional All ‘A’ and win districts. That’s our three big goals. It will be exciting to watch. It will be a fun year.”
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