With the football season nearing its end and Thanksgiving week upon us, that means high school basketball is as well. With the season opening up on Nov. 29, here is a preview of the season ahead.
With new Head Coach Stephen Haile at the helm of the program, the Lady Panthers are looking for newfound success in the 2021-22 season.
Coming off of a season in which Daviess County finished 8-12, they are looking to grab their first winning season since 2015.
Haile comes to the Panthers after being a major part of the successful Henderson County Girls Basketball program over the past 11 years alongside his dad and longtime Head Coach Jeff Haille (34 years), who recently recorded his 750th win last season.
He will have a roster full of upperclassmen, with a couple freshmen that could make an impact right away.
Some key returners include their leading scorers in junior Adylan Ayer and senior Katie Mewes, who finished last season averaging 12.9 ppg and 10.9 ppg respectively.
They will also look to freshman Lily Hoagland for some offense, as she started as an eighth grader and averaged 11.7 ppg before tearing her ACL six games into the season.
Haile also expects to get some valuable minutes from two upperclassmen in senior Ella Payne and junior Madison Spurrier as well.
This core group will be joined by incoming freshman Zoey Beehn and Emme Roberts. Haile said that Beehn will give them an inside and outside presence while Roberts will provide scrappiness and ample defensive effort.
Haile said that there will obviously be a learning curve for the players under a new coach, so learning the new system and understanding his philosophies will be key for them.
Along with being healthy, a competitive nature and a hard-nosed defensive mindset is something that Haile wants to be a major emphasis for the team all season.
“I would like to see the team improve on the defensive end and competitiveness from last season,” Haile said. “We have been working hard on our defense and competitive nature every day during practice so far this season.”
While some might not expect success from Daviess County right away under a new coach, Haile thinks that if the Lady Panthers improve game in and game out they can be a threat in the district and in region play this postseason as well.
“I am looking forward to watching this team grow into what I think can be a region title contender,” Haile said. “They are a great group of girls, and I am excited about getting to be a part of them better every game and hopefully we will gel come tournament time.”
Despite only returning two seniors and a roster filled with youth, the E-gals are looking to expand upon their success last season and be competitive in the 2021-22 postseason.
Apollo is coming off a strong season in which they won the 9th District and 3rd Region Championships en route to a 16-7 finish after falling to Henderson County in the state tournament.
With five players graduating, the E-gals will look to seniors Amaya Curry and Shelbie Beatty for leadership and key minutes all season long.
Head Coach Natalie Payne said Curry will be a key cog in Apollo’s offense, as she was tied as the leading scorer last season at 11.4 ppg while also averaging 3.0 spg and rpg.
“She’s very court savvy in transition,” Payne said. “Her quick first step allows her to get the rim and create for her teammates. She has a knack for getting in the lane and finishing around the basket, getting to the free throw line. She will be our floor leader, pushing the tempo, and getting others involved in the flow of the game. Amaya has become a lockdown defender, which results in easy offense for us.”
Payne said that Beatty provides a number of different things for the E-gals and said that her intelligence will shine on the court for the team.
“Shelbie is one of the most versatile players in the 3rd region,” Payne said. “She can play any position on the floor. Her outside shooting extends defenses, and she is also very crafty at getting in the lane. Shelbie has a very high basketball IQ, and she will be a coach on the floor for us this season.”
With such a young roster Apollo will need to gain some valuable experience as the season goes along, but they expect to be competitive.
Payne said that mental toughness will be crucial to improve upon this season, while also giving 110% on every play night in and night out in order to be successful.
“We must be able to hold teams and win the battle of the boards,” Payne said. “We are a team that is focused on winning the hustle plays, the 50/50 balls. Another key to our success will be how well our inside players develop. We have height inside, and we must be a force in the paint.”
Despite not having a plethora of experience, Payne and the E-gals are coming into the year with postseason hardware in their sights.
“We are striving to compete for a district and regional championship,” Payne said. “Beyond our two seniors, we lack experience at the varsity level. We are striving for consistency on both ends of the floor, but especially on the defensive end. Defense and rebounding must be consistent every time we step on the floor.”
Following an early postseason exit last season, the Lady Devils are aiming to build on their progress and secure a spot in the 3rd Region Tournament.
Owensboro is coming off of a season in which they finished 10-10 overall, while its season came to a close against Owensboro Catholic in the first round of the 9th District Tournament.
The Lady Devils have a young roster, but they are returning their leading scorer in junior Alyrica Hughes. Hughes averaged 10.5 ppg in the 2021-22 season and Head Coach Jansen Locher expects her to make a big splash for them offensively again this year.
“Alyrica plays with a high motor and a high basketball IQ,” Locher said. “She usually makes the right play when the ball is in her hands. She is also a tenacious defender who has led our team in steals the past two seasons.”
Owensboro also has some key additions to its roster, including juniors Melia Moorman and Chandler Worth.
Moorman has missed the last two seasons due to a severe knee injury, but she’s ready to play when the season begins next week.
“Melia is a fierce competitor and doesn’t back down from any challenge,” Locher said. “She has great guard skills, and the strength to finish against contact.”
Meanwhile, Worth is making her return to basketball after taking the 2020-21 season off. While she has been away from the game for a bit, Locher is excited to have her join the roster.
“Chandler is back after taking last season off,” Locher said. “She is a long athletic player that doesn’t shy away from contact. She can really put pressure on opposing offenses, and she excels in getting the ball to the rim.”
Locher said that they expect to be competitive amongst the district and in region play and that they have to be strong on the boards and offensively in order to find success.
“For our team to be successful, we have to become a better rebounding team,” Locher said. “We will rely on our guards to help our post players pull down rebounds on both sides of the ball. We also have to be consistent throughout the entire game. Too many times in the past we have had 15-20 point quarters, followed by 4-6 point quarters. We need a balanced attack that can put pressure on defenses throughout the duration of the game.”
In order for them to have continuous stretches of strong offensive play, Locher said they can’t have the same struggles with turnovers as last year.
“Common sense tells you that everytime you turn the ball over, that’s one less shot you get,” Locher said. “Last year we did a better job than the previous year of limiting turnovers, but still too many turnovers to beat good teams. If we control the basketball and don’t get too sloppy with it, we will give ourselves a great opportunity to win a lot of ball games.”
While their team may lack a lot of varsity experience, Locher and company are prepared to make a run in the postseason amongst tough competition.
“This year we expect to compete for a chance to play in the regional tournament,” Locher said. “The 9th district has consistently put teams in the regional finals and in the state tournament. We understand the challenge that is in front of us in order to get to the regional tournament and then hopefully compete for the 3rd region championship. We have a young team with no seniors, but we expect to battle each and every team we face.”
Coming off a season in which they gained much needed experience, the Lady Aces are looking to expand on their success and make a deeper run in the postseason.
Owensboro Catholic is coming off of a 15-12 season in which they fell in the second round of the 3rd Region Tournament.
The Lady Aces return the vast majority of the roster, with key players like seniors Kinsley Goetz and Camille Conkright, as well as juniors Maddie Hayden, Haillee Johnson, Lauren Keelin, Lexie Keelin and Rachel Traylor suiting up for Owensboro Catholic once again.
“Hailee was our leading scorer, Riney was leading rebounder, Maddie Hayden led us in Steals, and Kinsley and Camille will be veteran leaders on the court and I expect both to have great years,” Head Coach Michael Robertson said. “The Keelin twins and Traylor will really help us continue to stretch the floor with their ability to shoot from the outside and good pressure defense they all provide.”
The Lady Aces will also have some incoming freshmen that Robertson feels could make an immediate impact including Aubrey Randolph and Karmin Riley.
“Aubrey is a dynamic athlete that is still learning her body. She has done things in practice that you just aren’t able to teach. She has great instincts for the ball and is extremely long. Karmin is going to be a scorer and distributor of the basketball. She has good range and sees the floor extremely well.”
Looking to build upon their success last season with more experience under their belt, one thing Robertson wants the team to improve upon is the mental side of the game.
“I would like to see our team, when hit with adversity, not hang our heads or get down but to fight through whatever problem we are having and find a solution,” Robertson said. “It is easy to make excuses for what went wrong but not as easy to fight our way out of whatever issue you are having.”
As far as the physical side of the game goes, Robertson said the team has to hang its hat on limiting mistakes on both ends of the floort to be successful.
“A few things we will need to focus on this season to be successful would be, really playing good solid defense,” Robertson said. “If we can keep people under 50 points a game I like our chances. We need to focus on taking care of the ball and not making silly turnovers that lead to easy buckets for the opponent. Also we have to be very unselfish. We have a very deep team and we have to be willing to share the ball and not force things when they aren’t there.”
Robertson feels that the Lady Aces can be an exciting team during the 2021-22 season as long as they all buy-in and compete as a team night in and night out.
“I think we could be a very entertaining team to watch and very deep,” Robertson said. “[We plan on] possibly playing a very fast pace up-tempo game playing upwards of 10 girls a game for 10 to 12 minutes. But if we don’t all buy into playing hard all the time and not letting our emotions get the best of us we will be the same team in years past that play seven or eight girls.”
Following a rough 2020-21 campaign, the Lady Raiders are looking to grow this season with a strong core returning.
Trinity is coming off a season in which they finished with an overall record of 4-14, as it played its final game in the first round of the 12th District Tournament against Butler County.
They have a number of players returning this season, including their top-two scorers in senior Cassidy Morris and junior Josie Aull.
Morris was a key player for the Lady Raiders last season, averaging 15.6 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Head Coach Emily Hernandez expects the future Rend Lake College athlete to have another strong season thanks to increased health.
“She is a great competitor and can slash to the basket,” Hernandez said. “Coming back last year in January from a knee injury her sophomore year it took her some time to get back to game speed, we expect her to come back strong this season.”
Aull averaged 14.2 ppg last season for Trinity and Hernandez and company will be counting on her marksmanship once again this year.
“She shot 41.5% from the three-point line and runs the floor for us,” Hernandez said. “She also loves to compete and continues to improve in all aspects of her game. She continues to develop shots off the drive as people focus on her being a three-point threat.”
Hernandez expects to get plenty of contributions from her senior class, as Katherine Hibbitt, Hadley Hatfield and Maddie Logsdon all return.
Freshman Kenzie McDowell returns as well and Hernandez expects contributions from her after playing for them since her seventh grade year.
Trinity girls basketball has come a long way since Hernandez took over and while the roster is very young, Hernandez is excited to continue to build the program.
“I am excited to have four seniors and a junior leading us this season,” Hernandez said. “When I got here two years ago we were low in numbers and had one senior. Last year, we had no seniors and it was tough to really seem like we were in a flow with all the different situations that affected us and other teams, from the pandemic.
With a lot of depth on the roster, the Lady Raiders plan on pushing the action on the defensive end of the floor in order to find success this season.
“With 11 players, we are looking to play some up-tempo defense and hopefully have the depth to do that,” Hernandez said. “These girls are working hard and working together and we are looking forward to a good year. I like to play a variety of defenses, but want every shot contested. We want the other team to have to earn buckets and not just give them easy looks.”