Lewis County has a problem, but it’s a good one.
Between their veterans dedicated to the program and youthful, talented underclassmen, there are more Lady Lions that coach Jay Fite wants to put on the floor than the rules devised by James Naismith will permit.
“We do work hard to try to define roles for players, but then again, we don’t want to limit roles, either,” Fite said. “We try to be honest with them about how we see things, and we’re honest with them about where maybe younger kids will be playing and where they’re gonna be able to find their opportunities. Sometimes those opportunities are game production, and then sometimes, those opportunities are in great practice opportunities and making us better. The kids that truly accept that, they really make us a much better team.
“I know that’s the hardest thing to try to get kids to accept, but these kids have hung in here and they have worked hard, and being a part of this program has been very important to them, and we appreciate that, and we definitely want to show them we appreciate them, too.”
The Lady Lions couple a five-woman senior class — the largest in Fite’s 12 seasons as their coach across two stints — with an underclass inside duo and a freshman point guard who learned as Lewis County did last season. The Lady Lions won seven of their last 10 games, including a 38-31 victory over Menifee County in the 16th Region Tournament quarterfinals, after sitting sub-.500 entering February.
“It was a little rough at times last season, and we had to fight through that,” Fite said, “but the kids learned the big lessons about working hard, and it did pay off down the stretch for us. I’m hoping it’s gonna have a big carryover this season and our kids can maybe get off to a little smoother start.”
Sophomore Cheyenne D’Souza is Lewis County’s leading returning scorer (7.8 ppg) and paced the Lady Lions in glass work last season (6.6 rpg). Freshman Sarah Paige Weddington pitched in 4.1 ppg and 5.3 rpg. Both scored 10 points against the Ladycats at Morehead State in Lewis County’s first region tournament victory since 2013.
“Hopefully she’s just gonna continue to grow,” Fite said of D’Souza, “and she gets more comfortable finding her spots on the floor, and Sarah Weddington ... I think she can play anywhere from the 1 to the 5 at different points if we need it.”
Seniors Payton McGlone and Aliyah Horsley will also start. McGlone (4.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg last season) “does the dirty work, she’s gonna guard, she’s gonna rebound and she’s gonna set screens,” Fite said. “She sprints the floor very well. We’re hoping that she can play more of an offensive role this year.”
Lewis County looks for Horsley (3.8 ppg last year) “to be aggressive on both ends of the floor,” Fite said.
Liv Campbell filled in at point guard as an eighth-grader as departed senior Tierra Tully battled injury last season. She steps into that role full-time.
“Liv got some minutes there that were important to her moving forward, and she’s grown and gotten stronger physically,” Fite said. “She sees the floor well and she makes good decisions. Being a freshman point guard, you’re gonna make some freshman mistakes; we know that’s gonna happen, but we also know that with the opportunity to have her for the next four years, we’re gonna get to watch her growth.”
Senior Macy Lewis could start some, Fite said, based on her practice effort. Fellow 12th-grader Hannah Brooks can give Lewis County size in spot minutes off the bench — Fite said she’s one of four Lady Lions who crack 6 feet, and that has helped the Lady Lions defensively.
“We can hopefully be a little more versatile and maybe create some turnovers and get some things going on the offensive end based on our defense,” Fite said. “I felt like last year we had a solid halfcourt presence as far as keeping people out of the paint and contesting shots, but we didn’t create a tremendous amount of turnovers with it. Hopefully we can create some more offensive opportunities this year.”
Sophomore Alanna Puente, junior Jaisa Adams and senior Emily Short will also challenge for minutes.
“I’m excited about this bunch. I have been for a while,” Fite said. “I’m hoping our seniors are great senior leaders for us this year and very positive, and I’m hoping our young kids continue to grow for the future, because I definitely think we have some talent coming.”