For The Beacon
HEAD COACH: Bill Bradley
2018-19 Record: 18-11
Where Season Ended: 49-48 loss to Russell in opening round of Region.
Key Losses: Emma Fulton (4.7 ppg), Miranda Martin (3.2 ppg).
Keynote Games: George Washington (WV) 12/17, Highlands 12/20, Rowan County 1/2, Russell 1/9, Boyd County 1/13 & 1/24, Huntington St. Joe 2/17.
Bill Bradley’s schedule looks like the veteran skipper said go big or go home.
Ashland got a look at one of the 16th Region favorites in West Carter to open the season to start a run of half the field from last season’s regional tournament. The Kittens also battle St. Joe, a perennial Class A powerhouse in West Virginia.
Regardless of the schedule, Bradley has the firepower to combat whatever is thrown at him. It is no secret Julia Parker is the primary offensive weapon for the Kittens with the question not being if she is going to go off on any given night, but when. Leading the Kittens with 15.8 points per outing, Parker patrols the arc ready to fire from any point on the court. She connected on 77 attempts last season (34.4 percent) and punishes teams when they try to cover her with single coverage.
Sydney Sorrell (4.7ppg) and Carley Cullop (4.3 ppg) have to be the waiting beneficiaries for the Kittens when teams elect to double team Parker. But the perimeter may be the least of teams issues when trying to slow the Kittens. Morgan Bradley and Mikayla Martin return as the leading rebounders on the team, 7.8 and 8.9 per game, respectively, while both scoring in double-digits. Bradley netted 11.7 per game. Martin added 10.1.
The Kittens look to return to the State Tournament for the first time since 2014-15 in Bradley’s 40th season on the sideline.
Boyd County Lady Lions
HEAD COACH: Pete Fraley
2018-19 Record: 28-5
Where Season Ended: 72-54 loss to Male (Louisville) in the opening round of State Championship).
Key Losses: Savannah Wheeler (29.6 ppg/6.7 rpg),
Graci Borders (4.7 ppg/6.5 rpg).
Keynote Games: Cabell Midland (WV) 12/10, Hunt. St. Joe 12/13, West Carter 12/14, Christian Academy-Louisville 12/20, Ashland 1/13 & 24, Russell 2/7, Rowan County 2/21.
A peak at Pete Fraley’s schedule this season could make just about anyone consider running the other way.
The Lady Lions contests prior to Christmas may emulate the run any team might make in a state championship bid. After all, that is the plan Fraley implements every year. This season, however, things might be a bit more challenging after the loss of leading scoring Savannah Wheeler (29.6 ppg) to graduation. The reigning Miss Kentucky and No. 6 All-time leading scorer in state history leaves a void in the Boyd County offense that may take numerous players to replace.
However, the return of Harley Paynter (16 ppg/7.1 rpg) starts that forward moment as she moves into the leadership role shared with Wheeler last season. Fortunate for Paynter, she has plenty of reinforcements.
Back is Emma Borders (5.3ppg/3.7 rpg), Gracie Opell (5.1ppg) and Bailey Rucker (6.2ppg). Borders looks to play without her older sister Graci on the court after graduation takes away one of the Lady Lions leading rebounders (6.5 rpg). Opell was a spark plug off the bench for the Lady Lions last season, bringing something to the table each time she stepped onto the court. Her defensive pressure was one of her most noted traits. Rucker, who missed seven games due to a knee injury, hopes to be 100 percent this season while working as a scoring threat along side Paynter.
Boyd County opened with Huntington High on December 3 at home. Back-to-back opponents of Huntington St. Joe and West Carter on December 13-14 will test the Lady Lions stamina.
District showdowns with Ashland follow on January 13 in Cannonsburg and at Ashland on the 24th.
Fairview Lady Eagles
HEAD COACH: Rex Cooksey
2018-19 Record: 12-18
Where Season Ended: 82-35 loss to Boyd County in Districts.
Key Losses: Taylor Hamilton (6.5 ppg/5.4 rpg).
Keynote Games: Raceland 12/21, 1/11 (All-A)
Trapped in one of the toughest districts in the state, Fairview finds itself hoping and praying to a trip to Morehead before the opening tip of Game 1.
This season, the Lady Eagles return six of its seven top players from last year led by Gracie Crisp (15 ppg), Jordan Rakes (13.8 ppg/5 rpg) and Josey Nelson (5.3 ppg/3.7 rpg).
Crisp was the benefactor of the pressure Rakes saw much of the year and delivered for the Lady Eagles. Rakes went for over 1,000 points in her career last season.
Fairview gets a dress-rehearsal with Raceland on December 21 before facing off with the Lady Rams on January 11 in the opening round of the All-A Classic at Raceland.
Rose Hill Lady Royals
HEAD COACH: Kevin Nibert
2018-19 Record: 11-15
Where Season Ended: 52-32 win over Hannan, WV
Key Losses: Shelby Nibert
Keynote Games: Fairview Jan. 21
Rose Hill only graduated Shelby Nibert from last year’s 11-15 team, meaning the Lady Royals’ scoring and rebounding nucleus of Bellamee and Delaynee Sparks and Baylee Trimble return.
Delaynee needs only 124 points to surpass 1,000 as she enters her junior campaign. She averaged 10.6 point per game while grabbing 4.5 rebounds.
Rose Hill Coach Kevin Nibert said Delaynee’s younger sister Bellamee brings the energy to the program.
“Bellamee, we call her the spark plug,” Nibert said. “She’s the point guard that makes the team go and averaged about 12 points a game.”
Her 12.7 points per game led the Lady Royals while 5.3 rebounds were second best only to Trimble.
“Baylee had her coming out last season,” Nibert said. “She’s a good shooter and averaged about 9 points a game.”
Nibert will be leaning heavily on his three key returners but believes added depth is something this season’s squad may bring to the court.
“I have five returning letterman, that’s played a lot of varsity for me since seventh grade,” he said. “I have four returning starters and my sixth man will be stepping into that fifth starting spot. All nine will see action to get the starters some rest and when we get into foul trouble. We might be young but by the end of the year, all of them will be ready to step in there.”
Greenup County Lady Musketeers
HEAD COACH: Matt Gilbert
2018-19 Record: 5-24
Where Season Ended: 64-42 loss to Russell in Districts.
Key Losses: Maggie Miller (15.1 ppg/5 rpg).
Keynote Games: Raceland 12/19, Lewis 1/6, Russell 1/18.
In the world of the 63rd District, staying out of the four seed is priority one. Most seasons this ensures one will not face Russell until the finals and secures a bid to the regional tournament. For Greenup, this is the goal.
The Lady Musketeers return second leading scorer Lauren Hannah (7.2ppg/5 rpg) and leading rebounder Lexi Carrol (5.7 ppg/6.6 rpg) to the mix with Emma Frazier, Taylor Gammon and Rachel Bush looking to chip in.
Greenup gets an early district tilt prior to Christmas with Raceland on December 19. The Lady Musketeers complete half their district games midway through January with Lewis County on the 6th and Russell on the 18th.
Russell Lady Red Devils
HEAD COACH: Mandy Layne
2018-19 Record: 27-6
Where Season Ended: 63-47 to Boyd County in Regional Championship.
Key Losses: McKenah Morris (2.4 ppg), Lakie Sanders (13.8 ppg/8.1 rpg)
Keynote Games: West Carter 2/3, Raceland 12/14, Spring Valley 12/16, Paintsville 12/27, Rowan County 1/24.
Foes around the 63rdDistrict were overjoyed when Lakie Sanders graduated last season. The towering center for the Lady Red Devils presented matchup issues very few in the region could find a way to combat.
Unfortunately, another issue returns this season for Russell in Aubrey Hill. After suffering a season-ending knee injury, Hill looks to bounce back in the same capacity in her 12 games prior to the injury. Hill averaged 14.5 points per game and 8.1 rebounds, making her and Sanders a near impossible 1-2 punch. However, even with Sanders gone, the Russell attack is nothing less than challenging.
Led by eighth grader Shaelyn Steele (7.1 ppg) at the point, Russell’s high-octane offense goes as the speedy, shifty guard goes and she has plenty of weapons to dish the dime to as well. Kaeli Ross (14.8 ppg) presents a defensive matchup for any team wanting to slow her down. Play off the guard and she will pull the trigger from deep. Pressure her and she will use the dribble to penetrate to the lane. Steele and Ross together could be one of the best guard duos Layne has had in her arsenal. Malia Blevins (7.1 ppg/3.4 rpg) will be looked upon as well in a leadership role.
Regardless of where the Lady Devils stand when the postseason rolls around, they will be battle tested for sure. Contests with South Charleston, WV, Johnson Central and West Carter to open the season will set the tone. Russell tangles with Paintsville on December 27 and Rowan County on January 24.
Raceland Lady Rams
HEAD COACH: Ron Keeton
2018-19 Record: 10-17
Where Season Ended: 57-38 loss to Lewis County in Districts.
Key Losses: Holly Bryant (8.8 ppg/8 rpg).
Keynote Games: Russell 12/14 & 1/6, 12/19 Greenup, Lewis County 1/3, Fairview 1/11 (All-A Classic).
Things could be looking up for Ron Keeton and the Lady Rams this season. After all, all but one of the starters for the Rams return this season with plenty of varsity experience. Whitney Lute (5.7 ppg) and Kierston Smith (10.8 ppg/5.9 rpg) lead the Lady Rams surge from the point with Emily Garvin (8.4 ppg/3.7 rpg) and Chloe Collins (6.4 ppg/6.7 rpg) ready to contribute from any point on the floor.
Collins takes the court for the first time since a transformation of her body prior to softball season. The forward has shed the pounds while adding more power and speed which makes her a difficult assignment on the block. Adrianna Flocker returns after a hiatus from the court.
Raceland opened the season against East Carter on December 2. District tilts with Russell on December 14, Greenup County on December 19 and Lewis County on January 3 follow. The Lady Rams play host to the All-A Classic with Fairview in the opening round.