Youth and talent highlight Lady Jackets’ basketball team
The Woodford County High School girls’ basketball team is getting ready to start the 2016-17 season with a young but very talented team that is looking to not only contend for the 41st District tournament, but make a return to the 11th Region tournament, which they did not reach last year. “We want to contend for a district championship,” said Woodford head coach Jay Lucas, who enters his 34th season at the helm of the Lady Jackets. “I think it’s going to come down to between us and Franklin County. I think we’re the second-best team in the district. We have to figure out a way to (beat) them. They’re the defending state runner-up. So, that’s one of our goals – try and win that district championship (and) … go back to the region tournament. “I (also) think this team could be good enough, with a little bit of luck and everybody staying healthy, to win 20 games like we used to do. I think that’s very possible. But, again, we have to stay healthy and we have to have a little bit of luck, too.”
As for the district competition, Lucas believes Franklin County is the team to beat and that, at this point, Woodford is a solid second with Western Hills and Frankfort fighting for the third and fourth spot. Last season, Woodford finished 7-23 overall, 3-11 in the region and 1-6 in the district. In the 41st District tournament, in which they started one senior and – count them – four eighth graders, Woodford lost a 68-66 nail biter to Western Hills to end its season. This year, many of those young players return to the floor with a year of varsity experience, which should pay dividends against stronger teams, especially those in the district.
“(We have) no seniors,” said Lucas. “We are very young. Of our varsity players, we have four juniors, four sophomores, and seven freshmen. “(Recently), I was looking at some of the returning players, and even though we’re really young, only five of the 14 girls are new. The other nine, at the end of last year, were dressing varsity, and a few of them were playing a lot of varsity. So, you can be young, but you can also have young with some experience, and that’s what we have.” Leading the team in 2016 will be point guard Peyton Rose. “She is a junior that has three years of varsity experience,” said Lucas. “She started playing in her eighth-grade year. Played quite a bit. She was a sixth man her freshman year, and then in her sophomore year she started. This year she’ll start, too. “She’s our leader. I’ve already named her captain. Usually I have a senior captain, and (since we have no seniors), I went down to that junior class and just looked and saw it was a no brainer for me to name her as captain. And, she’s trying to lead at practice and doing a good job.” According to Lucas, Rose will see a lot of playing time and, hopefully, stay out of foul trouble. “That’s the big thing for her, and she’s smart enough of a player to understand that,” he said. Rose is confident that with her experience she will be up to the task to help lead the team this season.
“I think I’ll do well,” she said. “I have the most experience, so I know how things go I guess you can say. And, I know how to handle things more and what he (Coach) wants and expects. So I can direct (my teammates). So, I think it will go well.” Rose also notes how her team’s chemistry will be an important factor in how the team does this year. “We have really good team chemistry,” she said. “We get along well. We know how we move on the court, so that helps. And, we know each other’s weaknesses and strong skills. So, it will work out.” Backing up Rose at point guard will be two freshmen, Abbie Hudson and Olivia Jackson. At the two guard, junior Carrie Collins, sophomore Anna Manges and Hudson will see some time, while at the three guard will be freshmen Abby Moffett, Abbey Peterson and Shelbi Morrison, who is new to the team this year. She also is one of the top players on the WCHS girls’ soccer team. Along with Rose, Manges is a player that Lucas will be looking to as a scoring threat. “Abby is a player that we’re looking forward to helping us out in scoring a lot,” said Lucas. “She needs to be very confident in her shot. Play good solid defense for us. Take what comes; don’t force anything. “That’s what I’m trying to tell all of our young kids – don’t force anything. Just make your teammate better by making the extra pass. We are a team that likes to shoot threes, but we also like to drive a little bit. Drive hard to the basket and that kind of stuff.” According to Lucas, all eight of Woodford’s guards are talented, interchangeable and capable of playing any of the guard positions. “Hudson came off the bench some last year, but the rest of those guards will need to grow up quick,” said Lucas. “Grow up fast. You know, we play two district games against Western Hills and Franklin County (early in the season). So we’ve got to be ready to go.” At the four spot, Woodford has three options in junior Cassie Cook, sophomore Adie Preston and freshman Kasey Abel. The five-spot will be anchored by freshman Delaney Enlow, who will be the team’s go-to player on offense, as well as a strong presence on defense pulling down rebounds and blocking shots. “Delany is going to be our number one scoring option inside,” said Lucas. “So, we have to make sure that she stays out of foul trouble.” Also seeing time at the five spot will be sophomore Allison Birch, freshman Kayla Harlow and newcomer, junior Mara Llorente. Woodford will also use a different style of play this season than they did last year. “The way that we’re going to play this year is a little bit different,” he said. “We’re going to try and run a little bit more. Try and press a little bit more. You know, we’re quick. We’re very young, but we’ve got a lot of speed and we’re going to try and use that to our ability, and try and press people and (force them to) turn (the ball) over and get some shots in transition. “If you watched me coach a little bit last year, we kind of slowed it down and walked it up the floor (trying to get) options for Caitlin (Ferguson). “(This year), I think when you have even more talent across the team, then you’ve got to try and find ways to make the game go a little faster so that we can get more shots for everybody.” One final thing to note about this Woodford team is that it includes all of the middle school players who went undefeated during their sixth and seventh grade seasons, and had only two losses in eighth grade. They are a solid group of players and should make the Lady Jackets a lot of fun to watch for the next four years. “I’m looking forward to coaching them this year and the next three,” said Lucas. “It’s an exciting time for Woodford County basketball to … put us back on the map kind of thing. That’s what I want to do in the next four years is to make this team play like the team that … ran the table from 2001 thru 2008 (when) we never lost a district game. That’s what I want to get back too and, hopefully, we can.” Lucas will be assisted this season by Beth Lucas, who is also the junior varsity coach; Pam Duncan, who is also the assistant junior varsity coach; and Alyssa Lucas and Jeff Moffett, who will both coach the freshman team. As to what fans can look forward to seeing when they come and watch a Lady Jackets’ game, Lucas said, “We’re going to run. We’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re going to push the ball and we’re going to share the ball. Everybody’s going to be pulling for each other and have a lot of fun out there. I’ve seen a lot of good chemistry at practice, which is really good. I think that’s one of the biggest things you have in girls’ basketball – if your team gets along with each other, then you’ve won half the battle. I look forward to coaching this team. They look like they’re going to be a fun group to coach this year.” This Friday, Nov. 18, Woodford hosts Jacket Madness. Fans can get their first look at the 2016-17 team when they are introduced and then play a scrimmage starting at 6 p.m.