Ongoing growth in Sandy Hook, combined with coaching and personnel changes abounding in the 62nd District, have Elliott County ready to make its move.
No longer lion cubs, these Lady Lions say they’ve waited long enough to pounce.
“We need to get the confidence that we can win this year, because in the past, we haven’t had the confidence that we can win,” junior Abby Adkins said. “But this year, I feel like the district is wide open, and we can take what we want.”
Adkins, who averaged 15.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last year, surpassed 1,000 career points and 500 boards as a sophomore. The Lady Lions, who again don’t have a senior listed on the roster, have gained great experience from a young age and sport accompanying versatility, coach Roy Whitt said.
“It’s gonna help us out a lot,” Whitt said. “In the past, I feel like we’ve not had a lot of strong ballhandlers, other than one or two. Now we got five, six girls that can get the ball on a fast break and push it or get off a rebound and go down the floor themselves. It makes it easier for everybody else.
“It ain’t always just throwing the ball to Abby and trying to fill lanes. Abby can actually fill lanes a little bit herself now and get buckets like that.”
That’s a welcome development for Adkins, who is happy to shift some of the load she’s borne as the Lady Lions’ focal point for opposing defenses.
“It was hard at first, because we didn’t have any seniors for three years, I think,” she said, “and I felt like I had to take the team on my back, so it just helps out a lot.”
Junior Maleigh McDaniel has done her part to help out. She averaged in double figures for the second straight year last season, pitching in 11.1 ppg to go along with 3.4 rebounds. And sophomore Jasmine Ison delivered 8.0 ppg and 3.7 rpg.
Whitt mentioned junior Harley Locklear, freshmen Katie Adkins (Abby’s sister), Molly Howard and Natalie Sturgill and eighth-graders Kailey Hamilton and Rylee Sturgill as potential contributors. He said Howard and Natalie Sturgill have shot well in practice of late and expects the eighth-grade duo to be significant, too.
“We got like nine, 10 players that can come out and compete,” Whitt said. “Our practices, now they’re competitive, more so than in the past. ... I just feel like we’ve finally got some depth. We can go in there and maybe pressure the ball a little more.”
Rebounding will be a sticking point. The Lady Lions (7-20 last season) have put extra effort into that in the preseason, and how they do will determine the trajectory of their season, Whitt believes.
“We work on it every day in practice,” Whitt said. “I tell them every day, that’s the key to our season, is how well we rebound the basketball.
“We know that’s one of our deficiencies, but I still feel, at the same time, we’ve got some strength coming back, and if we do things right fundamentally, we can get rebounds.”