Ironton has finally run out of Lexies, at least for the time being.
Lexie Barrier, who helped lead the Lady Tigers to the Final Four in 2016, is a junior at James Madison. Lexi Wise completed her high school career last winter and is now at Glenville State.
Junior Lexie Arden, who would’ve been Ironton’s returning leader in virtually every statistical category according to coach Doug Graham, tore an ACL in a travel ball tournament in Atlanta in July — having previously torn the other one — and isn’t likely to play this season, Graham said.
Arden posted 16.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.9 steals and 2.8 blocks per game last year.
That doesn’t mean the Lady Tigers are calling this a lost campaign. They still expect to be right in the mix in the Ohio Valley Conference and at tournament time.
“With the girls I have here, I’m really pleased,” Graham said. “I’m thoroughly enjoying the girls. They’re listening. They’re working their tails off, and we have girls stepping up and playing their role, and really exceeding my expectations for the middle of November from when I was thinking about this back in the middle of summer.”
Ironton does gain a player back from ACL troubles. Sophomore Samantha LaFon tore hers in the first game last season and didn’t play again. She’s expected to aid the Lady Tigers inside.
Ironton’s two seniors, forward Sophie Caines and guard Haylee Stevens, are the only remaining Lady Tigers who played on that Final Four team. Their leadership and effectively executing their own roles has made them valuable, Graham said.
Stevens and juniors Riley Schreck, Elli Williams and Lydia Hannan will all play on the perimeter, as well as sophomore Kameren Arden — Lexie’s sister — and freshman Jayda Rogers, Graham said.
Schreck totaled 9.0 ppg and 2.3 rpg last season.
Hannan will also play in the interior. Caines, junior Abby Patterson and LaFon have inside or wing roles.
No one player will take up Wise’s or Arden’s slack, Graham said, but he expects to have four to seven Lady Tigers average between eight and 12 points, he said.
“I got three or four shooting the ball really well, and I got two or three playing inside really well,” Graham said. “I know we’re gonna get better just by the attitude those girls bring in and the way they listen to me and the way they work. No doubt, from when we started practice at the end of October until we end our (regular) season Feb. 7, those girls are gonna be completely 180 degrees better than when they started.”
Ironton is entering its fourth season in the OVC. The Lady Tigers won the league title in 2016 and split it with Fairland in 2017 before the Lady Dragons claimed it themselves last winter. Graham looks for Fairland and South Point to compete with Ironton for the conference crown this year.