SHEPHERDSVILLE – High school basketball coaches love to have senior leaders.
For second-year Bullitt Central girls’ head coach Kyle Roach that is not a luxury he will not have this winter. The leader part he feels he will have, but the Lady Cougar head coach will have no seniors this season.
This was not a late development. The Lady Cougars had just one junior in the program last season. Hailey Szpila was always a softball player first and after watching two teammates suffer knee injuries in basketball last year (one of them being softball teammate Katie Hutchison), Szpila opted to save her athletic endeavors for the spring.
All summer and through conditioning Roach knew that he would not have any seniors after having eight last season.
“We are very young,” Roach said in his office after a practice last week. “I’m not surprised at all. I’d have been more surprised if we had one.”
What did surprise Roach in the weeks leading up to the start of the season was the loss of 6-1 sophomore Shelby Flener. Her family moved to Mount Washington, but she had expected to stay at Bullitt Central. However, at the last minute, she enrolled at Bullitt East, a day after practicing with Bullitt Central.
In terms of leadership, that part of the game has been a little inconsistent at this point.
“That is definitely something we are working on,” Roach said. “Every day someone steps up, but no one has stepped up every day. I’ve had leadership from juniors and sophomores.”
Realizing how young this team would be, as well as being inexperienced, Roach put an emphasis on playing games over the summer. The Lady Cougars played upwards of 35 games in June and July.
“The summer went pretty good for us,” the coach recalled. “Most of them played AAU ball and we went to camp at Campbellsville. We were blasted by Nelson County at the beginning of the summer and then we beat them late in the summer. On the same day we lost a close game to Pleasure Ridge Park.
“I thought we did well,” Roach added. “I was pleased.”
At least early in the season, the five juniors and the six sophomores in the program will all get a shot at some playing time to show what they can do under the bright lights.
The Lady Cougars just don’t have experience in varsity games. Sophomore Belle Leonard got the most playing experience last year, but her average minutes a game would be in the single digits. In the last month of the season, sophomore Alexis Graham got some playing time. Juniors Stephanie Still and Kasey Renfrow saw a few minutes here and there last year. Otherwise, the rest of the players will be seeing their first varsity action ever when the Lady Cougars open the season next Wednesday at Thomas Nelson.
For the past three seasons, running the Lady Cougar attack was pretty much in the hands of Kayla Riggs. She has graduated and is now playing at Spalding.
Stepping into that lead position this season will be Graham who did get valuable experience late last season. At 5-8, she is a big point guard who can look over defenses.
On the wings, juniors Shelby Ross and Breanna Richardson will get the first looks. Ross will also be the back-up at point guard. Depth at the guard and wing spots will come from sophomore Cortney Johns along with sophomore Bethany Peercy and Emily McKnight.
On the inside, the Lady Cougars have the 6-1 Still, but her game is more finesse than power around the basket. Even with that, she will have to spend some time near the hoop. The Lady Cougars will often use two inside players and the rotation along with Still will be Leonard and Renfrow. Sophomore D.J Toogood could get minutes inside while sophomore Jordan Dawson will see some action.
“We don’t have a dominant post player,” Roach said. “Still will play around the basket sometimes, but that is not her game. She will move out and shoot the ball.”
Bullitt Central will look to generate some offense from its defense.
“I think this year we’ll try to play fast or faster,” Roach said. “We’re not real tall but our guards are lanky so I think we can press and get after people.”
There are no great changes to the schedule this season except for the fact that the team will play in just one holiday tournament, at Spencer County just before Christmas. The Lady Cougars will play North Bullitt twice and have games against Elizabethtown, the number two team in the state in the pre-season coaches poll along with a late-season game with Bullitt East, the 22nd ranked team in the state.
The Lady Cougars will have to learn on the road. Roach’s team plays just one game at home in December, on Monday, Dec. 16 against John Hardin.
Bullitt Central Lady Cougars
Head Coach - Kyle Roach (2nd season)
Last Season - 11-14 (Lost to Moore in 24th District tourney).
Assistant coaches - Jennifer Ritter and Josh Whitehouse. (Volunteer) Leah Wright.