The Eminence Lady Warriors have no seniors, two starters chose not to return to the basketball court this season and just nine players are listed on the roster. But head coach Carter Martin said his team is ahead of where it has been at this point in previous years.
Returning for his fourth season since taking over the program from Corey Scriber for the 2006-07 season, Martin wants this year to mark a turning point for his squad. The Warriors were 1-24 three years ago, 3-23 two years ago and 3-22 last year for a combined 7-69 record during Martin’s tenure.
“We’re ahead of where we were last year this early in the season,” Martin said of his nine players who will play varsity minutes this winter. “We are looking better in practice.”
Eminence’s lineup includes juniors Rachel Raisor, P.J. Thamason and Shelby Cannon, sophomores Sammy Congleton and Rachael Metcalfe, and freshmen Grace Anne Dowden, Meisha Mason, Chelsea Wright and Shaleigh McCarthy. Most likely, Raisor, Thamason, Congleton and Metcalfe are in the starting rotation with the fifth spot up for grabs. As of last week, Mason had earned that starting role.
With only nine players, the Lady Warriors have not been able to play a five-on-five scrimmage at practice. Martin said he has had help from a few high school boys to get in scrimmages.
The key player for Eminence, as it has been since Victoria Thornton graduated in 2007, is Raisor. The junior has been in the starting lineup since her middle school days and will resume her position as the team’s point guard and go-to player. Last season, she led the team in scoring and assists, and controlled the ball a majority of the time.
“She brings ball-handling skills to the team and has the tenacity to her that I hope can overflow to the rest of the team,” Martin said of the speedster who can shoot the long ball or drive inside. “But she has to get the other players involved for us to do well.”
Congleton and Metcalfe also bring starting experience to Eminence as the two post players who should provide an inside presence. Thamason and Mason will be key players this season as well, and both have the ability to play the point. Wright, who broke her foot during volleyball this fall and recently joined the basketball team, will also provide quality minutes off the bench. With limited options as far as numbers, all players will be vital to the team’s success.
Last season, the Lady Warriors had a 3-22 record and lost to Anderson County, 71-17, in the opening round of the 30th District tournament. Their three wins came against Louisville Collegiate in the season opener in early December, Riverside Christian in January and Conerstone Christian in February. They went on eight- and 10-game losing streaks and dropped their final four.
This year, Eminence is a little taller – though still undersized, quicker, shooting the ball better and playing better defense. Martin needs to get 100-percent effort from all his players on the court for 32 minutes each game.
“We’re really quick in some spots but slow in others,” he explained. “We really, really have to focus on playing defense and increasing our shooting percentage. Overall, if we can lean on each other then we’ll be alright.”
The Lady Warriors are not going to focus on wins and losses to test their progress, but work on individual play and hope that’s enough to earn more wins during the 2009-10 campaign.
“All I’m focusing on right now is each individual getting better and getting them in shape to play games,” Martin said before his season opener. “And we need to be competitive with top teams.”
Eminence’s 30th District opponents are Shelby County, Anderson County and Spencer County. The Lady Warriors play each team once during the regular season with those games determining the district tournament seeds.
The top team in the 8th Region, based on the pre-season Coaches’ Regional Team Ranking, is South Oldham with Anderson ranked fourth and Shelby ranked seventh. Neither Spencer nor Eminence is ranked in the top-10 list.
Eminence played two scrimmages leading up to its opener this week. The Lady Warriors played Fairdale and Western in Louisville, losing both. They had just six players, missing Wright because of her foot injury, and both Raisor and Metcalfe.
Against Western, the Warriors slowed down the tempo of the game for the first half to stay close before the score opened up in the second. Martin said he liked what he saw in the first half with his team’s ability to set the speed of the game. This came without Raisor running the point.
The Lady Warriors officially start their season this Thursday when they travel to Henry County High School to take on the Ladycats at 6 p.m.
E-mail us about this story at firstname.lastname@example.org.