LaRue County’s defending 18th District Champion girls’ varsity basketball team is out to demonstrate that last year’s journey to the semifinals of the Fifth Region tournament and a 27-4 season record weren’t flukes.
“I think the girls want to prove that last year was legit,” said Travis Wootton, in his seventh year at the Lady Hawks’ helm. “We have experience and size.”
Several veteran players return including Ivy Brown, a six-foot sophomore guard/forward), Alexis Brewer (5-9 freshman guard), Alley Evans (6-1 sophomore center), Haley Holt (5-10 junior forward), Alisha Durbin (6-2 junior forward), and two seniors, Nancy Howell (5-8 guard) and Shana Zajdel (5-6 guard).
“Everyone knows about Ivy and Alexis, so we have to have other players step up their roles this year with the loss of Lyndsay and Valerie (Whitlock, sisters and team leaders who graduated last year),” he said.
Wootton is looking for Brown and Brewer, who led the team in scoring last season, to assume the role of floor generals this season.
“They have to step up their leadership roles now,” he said.
Experience will be a big plus for the squad who beat Hart County 49-43 in the district finals and advanced in the Fifth Region tourney by walloping Washington County 53-48 in the opener before dropping a 56-44 decision to Elizabethtown.
“Nancy and Shana have started and played in a lot of varsity games; they have been around here a long time and know their roles,” Wootton said. “Alley and Haley played a lot of minutes last year and we expect them to continue to improve.”
He noticed tremendous improvement during the off season in the play of Durbin who averaged about five minutes a game last year.
“I am expecting really a really big season from her,” he said.
A couple of the girls have been battling injuries, however.
“Alley was cleared to start practicing last week and she is still working her way back into shape and working out some soreness right now,” Wooton said. “Nancy has to have her knee scoped in a week and we hope to have her back before our first game, but that may be too soon.”
The coach also has a fairly deep bench.
“Hunter Holt (5-5 freshman guard) has really improved and will play some off the bench; Miranda Hornback (5-11 junior forward) has looked really good in practice so far,” Wootton said. “Shaila Winston (5-9 junior center) works harder than anyone we have.”
“Taylor Burd (5-6 freshman forward) has been slowed by some injuries and Kristina Durbin (5-7 freshman forward) doesn’t back down from anything,” he continued. “We have two eighth graders that have shown a lot of positives so far – Delany Eastridge (5-4 guard) and Shakeya Washington (5-5 forward) – and we have two new players that are working on getting better in Becca Riggs (5-8 freshman forward) and Miranda Cecil (5-7 sophomore forward).
The coach expects Hornback and Hunter Holt to give the team the most help off the bench out of that group.
Wootton expects Hart and Green to be the strongest district rivals with Marion, Adair, and Nelson counties, North Hardin and Elizabethtown to be regional powerhouses.
His assistant coaches include Tommy Adams, Roy Walker and Kyle Baker.
The Lady Hawks open the season 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at Meade County.