Henry County Ladycats pin season hopes on young talent, shooting for 10-plus wins

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By Tommie Kendall

To say the Henry County girls basketball team is young this season is a bit of an understatement. Actually, its really an understatement.

After losing six players from last years 9-18 squad to graduation Amanda Amburgey, Sayo Cook, Ashley Dewitt, Eden Pryor, Adina Puckett and Samantha Raisor the Ladycats will have to look to their younger players for wins. They return just one senior in Geane Moore, zero juniors, and a varsity roster full of seven sophomores and six freshmen. The balance of the season will rest in the hands of these youngsters, who, on a positive note, make the future look very bright at HCHS.

Some of our players are young with experience and some are young with no experience, but they are all willing to learn, and they all are very coachable, said Todd Gilley, who has combined for a 16-37 record in his two seasons as head coach. Thats the one thing that is consistent with this team their willingness to put forth the effort to do what they need to do to be successful.

Gilley said this particular team has two types of players those that are athletic and those that have basketball smarts. Now, he just has to get them playing well together.

Those athletic players need to improve their basketball savvy, and those that have basketball smarts need to use that to their advantage, he said. I think were going to find out pretty quick about our players, then well go from there.

Henry opened its season Monday against Beechwood, and will travel to the Lady Spartan Invitational this Thursday to take on Sayre High School, who will host the tournament. After that, the Ladycats play at Gallatin County on Dec. 7, host Carroll County on Dec. 10, and travel to Owen County on Dec. 10 all three 31st District opponents.

Henry lost to Carroll (64-30), who was led by 8th Region Player of the Year standout and current Western Kentucky University freshman Whitney Ballinger, in the opening round of districts last season.

But without the 6-foot-1 Ballinger scoring 22.6 points per game and grabbing 14.8 rebounds each outing, there should be more parity in district play.

One of the goals every team has is to win districts, so thats something we are shooting for, too, Gilley said. For us, the first step is to earn higher than a fourth seed in the district tournament, which is what weve had the last few years. And we havent won 10 games in a season in a while, so thats something we want to do also.

The top returning player for Henry will be sophomore Kelsey Mings, who joined the team during her eighth-grade year and worked her way into a starting point guard role, where she stayed full-time as a freshman. Other important components to the team are senior Moore, sophomores Brittany Crawford, Kelley Everidge, Jenny Kozora, Allison Taylor and Rebekkah Buckley, and freshmen Tyler Sadler, Taylor Clark and Jessica Booher.

We have several players competing for playing time, and a lot of them are on the same level, Gilley said. A lot of kids have worked really hard in the off-season to improve their game.

Gilley, who is also the HCHS Athletics Director, inherited a 6-22 program from Tim Gabeheart, who was the head coach for two years prior to Gilley jumping on board. In 2006, Henry went 9-18 and lost to Carroll County (46-42) in the first round of districts, and in 2007, the team went 7-19 and lost to Carroll in the opening round again.

Henrys success in the 2008 campaign could have a lot to do with its inside play. Moore is the teams only inside presence.

We arent very big, so we have to be tough physically, Gilley said. Rebounding is a must. Its hard to simulate in practice because we dont have any taller players to go up against, so its going to be an eye opener for them.

The Ladycats also are working on getting mentally tougher. Gilley had the team go through a two-week long boot camp training for the final two weeks leading up to its opener.

Most of the time, I get the opportunity to ease some of the younger players in with the more experienced ones, but we dont have that luxury this year with so many young players on the team, Gilley explained.

The Ladycats attended two team camps during the summer, including a camp at Transylvania University and one at Ludlow High School. Like all young teams in pre-season games, they had their struggles.

We were up and down we would look really good then really bad, Gilley said. The main thing we have to do is continue making strides and stay healthy. If we can do that, I think we can accomplish all of our goals.

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.