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RIVER RAT: Nelson girls figure to challenge for region title

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River Rat

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

The first basketball games of the high school season start in a week and a half, so I’ve been trying to touch base with all of our local hoops coaches this week in between naps while I try to shake off this bug that’s going around.

Today I’ll touch base with our local girls’ basketball coaches just to give you a brief look at the teams in advance of next week — when we start running our team previews on Zubaty and Crew Sports Week — and give you something to chew on before we publish our Kentucky Standard 2011-12 Basketball Preview special section Nov. 30.

 

Nelson County

2010-11 — 18-13 overall, 19th District champs, fell 53-47 at eventual region champ Marion County in the 5th Region semifinals

Coach Kelly Wood’s Cardinals were young last season, with no seniors on the roster. It showed, too, as Nelson struggled in the 2010 portion of its schedule, going 4-8. Things changed after the calendar flipped, however, as an inexperienced squad found its way and went 14-4 down the stretch before being edged by Marion County by just six points in the region semifinals on the Knights’ home floor.

This year, expectations are high around the Cardinal squad as they return everybody from last year, and those kids all have another year of experience under their collective belt.

“We don’t lose anything,” said Wood, who thinks his team should be able to go 11 deep without much of a drop-off.

Right now, however, Wood said his team’s biggest obstacle is going to be consistency.

“We’ll have a good practice (followed by) a lazy practice,” he said. “The way we’re practicing right now, we’re not going to win in our district and region.”

Even with that being said, the Cardinals figure to be pretty good.

Cierra Drake, a junior, emerged from the shadow of her sister, Samantha, during the second half of last season, and figures to share scoring duties with perimeter threats such as seniors Shelby Maupin and Ashley Wimpsett, junior A.J. Lewis and freshman Caitlin Hagan.

Look for Nelson County to be in the Top 25 in most polls and rankings this season. The Cardinals will be tested early on, with a scrimmage Tuesday against an Anderson County squad expected to win the 8th Region, and they open the season against 5th Region powers Marion County (Dec. 2) and Elizabethtown (Dec. 8).

 

Bardstown

2010-11 — 10-17 overall, fell 56-30 to Washington County in the 19th District semifinals

The Tigers were on tap for a big season last year until the school’s all-time leading scorer, Daizah Kimberland, suffered a season-ending knee injury in early January, and lost their last 10 games of the season while trying to adjust.

Bardstown coach Paul Stone is still trying to fill that hole in his team’s offensive production, scoring just 17 points in a recent scrimmage against Christian Academy – Louisville. By the same token, the Tigers should be a quick squad that’s pesky on defense, Stone said.

Returning starters Abbie Parrish and Keonna Stone, both seniors, and junior Karis Rogers seem the most likely candidates to pick up the scoring slack.

“The thing about this team is the chemistry is good already, but we’ve got a long way to go on offense,” Stone said. “If we’re going to win games, we’re going to have to learn to make shots and not turn the ball over.”

Stone figures his team will go about 8-9 players deep, with some newcomers in the mix. Included among those are three foreign exchange students in senior Julia Comandini (Italy), junior Sigrid Steinsland (Norway) and senior Malin Mansson (Sweden), and Stone said 5-5 eighth-grader BreAsia Spalding has performed well in practice and has a chance to break into the regular rotation.

The Tigers open at North Bullitt Nov. 29.

 

Bethlehem

2010-11 — 4-16 overall, fell 67-37 to Nelson County in 19th District semifinals

Just one starter departs from last year’s Banshee squad, a team that didn’t win a game before New Year’s but showed signs of improvement in 2011 as an inexperienced bunch learned its way.

Coach Chris Taylor is excited about this year’s squad, as returning players now become veterans, and new talent is out for the squad for 2011-12.

“My numbers are up — we have 15 playing this year,” he said, which is a big change from last season as the Banshees ended up with just eight players on the team at times last year.

Bethlehem should be a taller and more mature team this year, even with 12 of the 15 girls on the squad being freshmen or sophomores. Freshmen Mollie Simms and coach’s daughter Madison Taylor bring size and athleticism to the lineup, while senior Olivia Alm and sophomore MacKenzie Hagan seem to be likely candidates to take on scoring duties for the Banshees. Depth also figures to be a strength, something Taylor has not been able to say in recent years.

“We’ll just be a lot better all-around,” he said. “Overall, our skills are a lot better. If we can continue to shoot like we have in practice …”

The Banshees open their season at home Dec. 2 against Bardstown.