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One year after operating in half-court sets and focusing on a low-post game, Head Coach Bernard Smalley and his WC Commanderettes are looking to speed up the pace a bit.
“In the past, we’ve been kind of bigger, size-wise, but now we’re basically guard-oriented,” Smalley said. “We’re gonna get the ball up and down the court, shoot a lot of threes. I think it’ll be a fun season because the kids have really bought into it.”
The goal on offense will be “to get the ball from one end to the other in four seconds,” while their defensive strategy will be to disrupt the opposition by using a run-and-jump style full-court press.
For Smalley, his team’s conditioning will be the key to success.
“To play this kind of style, you’ve gotta be in shape,” Smalley said. “I think we are in pretty decent shape right now, but we’ve got a little ways to go still.”
The Commanderettes finished last season at 16-14, and for the third straight year, the team took home district runner-up honors and a trip to the regional tournament.
With three starters coming back (two sophomores and a senior) from last year’s squad and four seniors on the team, Smalley looks for his team to have “a lot of leadership.”
“Bringing back some players with game experience is going to help us a lot,” Smalley said. “Those players shouldn’t be nervous out on the court, and the younger kids can lean on those players to really get them over the hump.”
Some of these players include senior Jennifer Keene, who averaged 12 points per game last year; Lexi Thompson, the sophomore who returns to run the point guard position; Nyk Brizendine, who Smalley says he will be “asking a lot of” this season; Taylor Eldridge, who started as a freshman; Amber Grigsby, who Smalley described as “real hard-nosed” and CJ Jones and India Yocum, seniors who Smalley believes will both make big impacts off of the bench.
To return to the regional tournament for the fourth time in as many seasons, the Commanderettes will once again be competing with Nelson County, winners of three straight district titles.
But Smalley believes that this year’s champion could be any of the five teams, with the remaining three teams — Bardstown, Bethlehem and Thomas Nelson — all looking much improved going into the season.
But one things for sure: they will be fun to watch.
“I guarantee that anybody that comes out to support the team will like the team’s style of play,” Smalley said. “The players all like the new style, and I think the fans will, too.”