The Letcher County Central Lady Cougars are faced with replacing two top seniors from last season’s 25-5 squad that lost 61-54 to eventual 14th Regional champion Breathitt County in the regional semifinals in Whitesburg last March.
“We lost two (baseline) players,” said coach Dickie Adams, “who were all-region players, Brittany Sexton (12 points per game (ppg); 7 rebounds per game (rpg)) and Shannon Bays (12 ppg, 9 rpg). Replacing them in the middle has certainly been our emphasis.”
For the past two seasons, the Lady Cougars have relied heavily on young perimeter players, and “all the guards are back who played most of the minutes and scored most of the points,” said Adams. “But we have to have post play and that’s what most of the focus has been on in practice, trying to improve our post play.”
This season’s squad returns talented and experienced guards in preseason all-region picks sophomore Kelah Eldridge and junior Erica Meade along with junior Haley Whitaker and sophomore Vannah Breeding.
“Clearly our strength will be our guards — our returning guards — off ensively and defensively,” said Adams, “and the trio of Haley Whitaker, Erica Meade and Kelah Eldridge are good rebounders. Vannah Breeding played a lot of minutes last year.”
Seniors Chloe Wynn, who returns after sitting out last year, and Micca Boggs, who played valuable minutes last season, will add extra depth on the perimeter.
Even with relatively inexperienced players in the middle, Adams said this year’s team will not be that much diff erent from last year’s edition because of the depth being provided by his returning players.
“I think, early on, I can play up to nine people and this should be a plus for us. We’ve got pretty good size in the past but it’s a lot of youth. We have some seniors but it’s still a young team because most of the players who scored the most points and got the most rebounds will be underclassmen.”
With anticipated good perimeter defense, Adams thinks that his young post players will be able to provide good interior defense and get their share of the rebounds.
“We may be a little more guardoriented offensively and defensively but we work at rebounding,” said Adams. “We practice playing defense and rebounding and I have high expectation that we will be able to find some good post play from the group that played last year.”
Sophomores Julie Cornett and Keisha Collins and senior Lauren Thomas are expected to see most of the early playing time, said Adams.
Despite losing about 16 rebounds a game with the graduation of Sexton and Bays, Adams said that his team’s style of play — individuals pressuring the ball — lends itself to putting players in position, regardless of size, to rebounding. “You don’t have to be big to rebound. Our style of play kind of keeps the other team scattered out and I expect us to be a good rebounding team this year.”
Many preseason regional polls have Perry County Central as the top-rated team, with junior All- State guard Kendall Noble transferring from Breathitt County to join a talented returning duo of 6-0 freshman center Kayla Rankin and sophomore guard Whitney Back.
The Lady Cougars, who will host the Lady Commodores on Jan. 18, are ranked second in the preseason regional polls. Knott County Central, Leslie County and four-time defending regional champion Breathitt County round out the top five.
Powell County, Hazard, Estill County, Wolfe County and Owsley County complete the preseason regional top 10.