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Tip-off time for WC roundball

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Commanders and Commanderettes open seasons at Taylor Co. Tuesday

By The Staff

By Jimmie Earls

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Sun Sports Writer

It’s that time again. People have been raking up fallen leaves by the bagful, hooded sweatshirts and jeans replace tee-shirts and shorts as the choice of daily attire, and the morning air is filled with the scent of burning firewood. Yes, it’s time for high school basketball in Washington County.

It seems like only yesterday the football Commanders were tearing up the field. Now the cleats give way to sneakers and tank tops rest on shoulders instead of pads. If anyone knows how fast basketball season can approach, it’s new WC boys’ head coach Russell Burkhead. He’s been working with the players for the past few weeks, but has only had his full squad for about a week as players who are just finishing up football are turning their attention to roundball.

“I’ve had the full team for about five days,” Burkhead said last Thursday afternoon. “The kids have been working really hard and it’s tough to shift gears from one sport to another. It’s a different mindset and it’s going to take a few games before they get into a groove.”

Practices have been intense, and it’s evident that the first-year coach is enthusiastic about the game.

“Don’t be a robot,” he told his team during a recent practice. “Make sure you have second, third and fourth options. Just play the game. ”

The Commanders are looking to improve on their 4-24 showing last season.

Even before the season starts, the injury bug is forcing Burkhead to adjust his line-up as senior guard Alex Simms expects to be out until the first of January.

“They’re saying around the beginning of January is when I can probably return,” said Simms. “It’s hard to just sit here, I just want to play.”

At press time, the team was scheduled to play a scrimmage game against Garrard County this past Monday at WCHS, but highlights were not available.

As the practices wind down and the start of the season approaches, the Commanders know that they need to play four quarters of basketball each game.

“We’re ready to go,” Burkhead added. “We’re going to have fun and I think the fans will, as well.”

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The 2009-10 Washington County Commanderettes look a lot like last year’s team as the squad lost only two seniors. This year, seniors Pooh Railey, Sarah Godshall, Morgan Burton and Shelley Medley will bring experience to the table and head coach Bernard Smalley is looking for that leadership to step up.

“With four returning seniors on the team, I expect those four to provide some leadership,” said Smalley. “Three of the four started last season and Shelley Medley was out with an injury.”

The Commanderettes finished 5-21 last year.

Besides the experienced seniors, the squad should get a burst of youth as the speedy sophomore Shay Yocum returns from last year, and juniors Michelle Hayden, Kayla Edelen and Linda Libby should see a good amount of playing time.

Junior Ange Umulisa, the 6’5” center from Rwanda, should get some experience on the JV squad to start the season and hopes are high that she can contribute in the stretch run.

“If we can get out of the gate early with a couple of wins, that will boost the girls’ confidence,” Smalley added. “We need to get off to a good start.”

The team will finally have their chance to get that good start when they open up the season on Dec. 1 as they play a boy/girl double-header against Taylor County. The boys get things started at 6 p.m., while the girls play the nightcap game at 7:30 p.m.

You can catch both games live on 100.9 MIKE-FM or listen to the streaming audio on www.lebanonmike.com.

Check out next week’s issue of The Springfield Sun for highlights and photos from both games, as well as WC basketball throughout the season.