East Carter girls basketball adds versatility and speed under new head coach Jeff Damron.
“The program has always been there. It is just about getting the love and the energy back. I don’t think it is that far away,” said Damron.
Damron is a graduate of East Carter and an 11-year assistant coach at East. He stepped into the director’s role following a 15-15 season. East Carter did not renew the contract of longtime coach Hager Easterling during the offseason.
The Lady Raiders return the bulk of last season’s team, including leading scorers Alyssa Stickler and Haley Campbell.
Stickler led the team with 442 points (14.7 average). She shot 31.8% from 3-point range. She had the team’s best free-throw percentage (73%).
Stickler and Campbell (9.8 ppg) each sank more than 50 3-point baskets, making last season a very guard-heavy team. Damron is sure that that will not be the case this year. With plenty of height, the Lady Raiders will adjust to what is best at the time.
“The height is there. I can play five guards if I want or we can go big. It gives us a lot of opportunities and different styles of play depending on what we need at the time,” Damron said.
Markita Gamsby, Hannah Gallion and Makyla Waggoner return under the basket.
Gallion had averages of 6.8 (points) and 8.8 (rebounds) in 2018-19. She returns the team’s best field-goal percentage (42.3).
Gallion and Gamsby (6.7 ppg) are part the Lady Raiders’ four-senior crew along with Campbell and Mackenzie Bush (3.3 ppg).
“We also have a bunch of younger girls we expect to come in and play good minutes for us,” Bush said.
Gamsby was among the team’s top rebounders at 5.7 per game. She was tied with Stickler for second on the team in rebounds.
Swanagan returns 116 points and scored 22 buckets from 3-point range.
Some additions to this year’s team are Jascie Greene and Jaelyn Steele. The Lady Raiders also return a lot of younger talent, including Avery Hall, Karyssa Marcum, Maci Moore and Waggoner. This group of underclassmen add to an already deep team.
“I’ve got some younger kids that had some really great summers. We can go 10, 11 deep in different styles of play. It makes it really fun and opens a lot of things up. It’s a good surprise,” Damron said.
East Carter lost, 60-49, to its rivals at West Carter during the 62nd District championship. The Lady Raiders look to reclaim the district and to improve on last year’s results through experience.
“I feel like we are going to shock a lot of people … new coaching staff, everyone coming back, new positions. It’s going to be a really good year for us,” said Gamsby.
With a tough regular season ahead of them, the Lady Raiders will be tried and true before the postseason. They are scheduled to play several teams outside the region such as Mason County, Belfry, Ballard and Lawrence County.
“I am focused on getting us to where we need to be,” said Damron. “Playing the competition, I love playing competition. Just like in our preseason. Huntington St. Joe always has a good team. Playing teams like that help me gauge where we need to be.”
Coach Damron expects to see a change in pace in order to keep up with the tougher competition. He wants to push the tempo and use the Lady Raiders’ exceptional depth to their advantage.
The Lady Raiders tip off their 2019-20 campaign on Dec. 2 at Raceland at 7:30 p.m.