Area Girls Basketball : “WHAT NEXT?”
AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL : “WHAT NEXT?”
Ever go watch a great movie and then you wonder if the sequel will be even better? Well, that’s the feeling about Area Girls Basketball next season. Not even a week after Mercer County repeated at KHSAA State Champions, there is also a lot of excitement going into the summer girls basketball frontier, but just as many questions await. There is no question that the 5th Region was a bit down as opposed to past seasons when the intra district competition was fierce. Back in 2005 when I first started covering Girls basketball in the area, Elizabethtown, Central Hardin and North Hardin were all jockeying back and forth to see who was the best and in fact it seemed a bit sad that at least one of the three teams, which were capable of winning the 5th Region and making some really loud noise at the State Tournament. Since then Central Hardin had dropped out of sight for a while after head coach Terry Buckles retired and North Hardin has just recently fallen on hard times after a long and serious Region Run. Since then John Hardin had taken a step up and become the new power player on the block and the Lady Bruins have just recently have seen signs of recovering and welcome a return to glory hopefully in the next several years.
I remember back in 2013 when Marion County ran the table and won the State Championship with a team of All Stars, but what was forgotten was that there were several other teams in the 5th Region that could have easily won in other Regions and made noise in the State Tourney such as LaRue County, Nelson County, Elizabethtown, North Hardin and Adair County.
Now, things are a little different as it seems that several factors have changed the fortunes of many past contenders. Elizabethtown look strong despite the loss of three seniors (all starters) and as long as head coach Donnie Swiney has sophomore guard Whitney Hay, the Lady Panthers look like the team to beat in 2019. Elizabethtown will lose the length and shot blocking threat of Morgan Gattis, who really become a serious defensive factor along with Leikyn Walker and the timely presence of Tanisia Murphy at guard and big plays by Karson Knight. The Lady Panthers didn’t go very deep though and with three starters gone, Swiney will have to develop that if they are to continue and have success deep in the playoffs.
The 17th District also has another team which could still be in the running if they can overcome the loss of senior post player Rayven Peeples and guard Elona White and that’s something coach Caleb Smith will look into during the offseason as other players will have expanded roles if the Lady Bulldogs are to ever seriously challenge Elizabethtown for the top spot. Next to John Hardin, Bardstown must be given serious consideration as one of the possible Final Four after their great finish and first Region tourney win and first Region Final finish. Coach Amber Courtney will have to replace guards Destanie Love, Haley Koger and Allie Walsh first, but Courtney does have a very young squad outside of that and lots of potential. Katrina Brown, Jaileyah Cotton, MaTija Yocum and Jordan Boggs are all either middle-schoolers or sophomores and with Kadence Walls an up and comer, the Lady Tigers are set.
Nelson County put up quite a fight all season after losing 80% of their offense from their 5 Region Champ team and with star Marly Walls now gone it will be up to Troy Thomas to develop talent and Ella Thompson, Loren Seely, Amelia Hodges and Zaria Burton must grow up quickly. Three years ago LaRue County was a 5th Region Finalist two consecutive seasons, but much as changed and with top scorers Presley Brown, Mallory Williams and Sophie Akin gone, coach James Slaven must build a new lineup to contend next season. Chris Blaydes has built a consistent winner at Green County and the Lady Dragons lose top scorers Hannah Judd and Shelby Howell. Marion County might still be a year away under Kelly Wood and Bethlehem could make some noise with star forward Ellie Taylor.
The 3rd Region is a different story as it has seen a different champion since 2010, it could change even again in 2019. Owensboro Catholic should be the favorite if they can avoid the challenges of several team like Breckinridge County, Meade County and Daviess County.
Yes. Next season will be here before you know it and so will the questions, but that’s what makes the chase so much fun.