November 22, 2007

Coach Young Takes Over Reigns of Youthful Lady Tigers Hoops Program

A talented influx of freshmen is giving the Scotland County girls basketball program a youthful appearance. But the first year players arent the only youngsters on the 2007-08 squad. Just two of the 16 girls out this season are seniors.

But that doesnt mean first year head coach TJ Young wont have plenty of experience to draw upon.

The Lady Tigers return four starters from last years team that went 8-16 overall and 3-4 in the Tri-Rivers Conference.

SCR-I brings back leading scorer Kirsten Johnston. She averaged 14 points a night and was the teams leading three-point threat en route to earning first team all-conference honors.

Fellow senior Jessica Bair also earned league accolades, being named to the second team after averaging 8.4 points per game while grabbing a team best 5 rebounds per contest.

She will be making the transition to the perimeter this year as Coach Young hopes to take better advantage of her athletic ability and her shooting skills.

Melissa Cotton is another scoring threat Young hopes to maximize in 2008. Arguably the best pure shooter on the squad, Cotton appeared reluctant at times to shoot the ball last season, and the coach hopes the junior will be more aggressive and provide needed scoring punch from the perimeter for the Lady Tigers.

Bair and Cotton likely will flank Johnston at the guard spots as KJ moves over to take control of the point guard spot.

It is a different role for her, but I think she is making the transition pretty well, Young said. The biggest challenge is becoming more of a distributor, getting everyone involved and letting her shots come in the flow of the offense.

Last season, SCR-I struggled when teams focused their defensive efforts on stopping Johnston. The move to point guard should limit this option, as Johnston will have the ball in her hands more, allowing her to take advantage of open teammates.

Two of those options will be juniors Kaitlin Caldwell and Valerie Oldham, the teams starting post players. Oldham started last season for SCR-I and is looking to build on a successful 2006-07. Caldwell came on strong down the stretch, splitting time with senior Kaela Cook who will miss the year due to a knee injury.

I told the girls that outside of maybe North Shelby, we definitely are not going to be taller than our opposition this year, Young said. We are going to have to take advantage of our speed and athletic abilities to gain an edge.

One such edge is Oldhams speed, which Young said could be a key in a more up-tempo style.

She is going to be one of the fastest post players in the league this year, so we hope to take advantage of that for some easy buckets in transition, he said.

Depth behind Oldham and Caldwell is the major concern for SCR-I heading into the season.

Young will have to turn to forward Cheyenne Ward and Bair to play some minutes in the post, although he admits both are better suited for the perimeter.

Cheyenne came in last year and gave us a spark on offense, Young said. We are looking for that from her again this year as her role will continue to grow. She will see time at whatever position we need her in.

Fellow juniors Kelsey Frazier and Betsey Kittle will add to the guard depth for Scotland County.

This squad features just one sophomore, Elizabeth Small.

Seven freshmen are helping fill the ranks, and coach Young hasnt ruled out some of the youngsters eventually seeing some varsity court time.

The underclassmen include Ivy Hauk, Skyler Alderton, Jamie Shaw, Aimee Dale, Ashley Tague, Catherine Shalley and Anna Duley.

The Tri-Rivers Conference returns a number of talented squads making it a difficult task for SCR-I to move up in the standings.

Perennial powerhouse Clark County graduated league MVP Courtney Shuman but still returns a talented squad led by all-league performers Amanda Winters, Kassidy Shuman and Daryl Goldie. Putnam County also brings back key contributors Brittany Cassiday, Katie Steele and Hilary Mason. Schuyler County will look for the return of talented Tawhnee Poe, who missed most of the season with a knee injury. In her absence Schuyler County developed all-conference performers Tara Verkuilen and Jackie Roberts to give the team a talented trio.

Dalyn Collins returns to lead Brookfield while Knox County, Milan and North Shelby will all lean on their returning casts to try to move up the league ladder.

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