The Middlesboro Lady Jackets enter the 2013-14 season with a lack of experience, size and depth. They’ll be trying to make up for those deficiencies with hustle and quite a bit of young talent that will need to mature as the season goes on.
“We’re real young. We have one senior and in the preseason we’ve started one sophomore, one freshman and two eighth-graders. Off the bench we’ve got two seventh-graders and our first post is an eighth-grader,” Lady Jacket coach Elgie Green said. “We’ve played hard and I’ve been pleased with how they’ve competed.
“As a young team we’ve just got to play more games because right now we really just don’t have the bodies to go five-on-five in practice against each other. As the year goes on we’ll have to get better as we play and gain experience.”
Three starters graduated from last season’s 5-21 club — Carissa Padgett, Kelsie Hensley and Taylor Moyers — and Anajae Stephney, a standout post player who missed most of last season with a knee injury, has transferred to Bearden High School after her family moved to Knoxville in September.
The Lady Jackets do return two of their top three scorers from last year in eighth-grade forward Blair Green and sophomore point guard Bailey Hensley. Green, one of the top middle school players in the state at 6-foot-1, averaged 14.4 points per game playing with the varsity as a seventh-grader while Hensley (5-4) added 8.3 points per game.
Sophomore forward Lauren Spurlock (5-9) is recovering from an elbow injury and has yet to be cleared to play.
Rounding out the expected starting line-up are senior guard Amanda Biscardi, freshman forward Morgan Thompson and eighth-grade guard Hannah Warren. Seventh-graders Baylee Woody and Jamayha Poe are the first two guards off the bench with eighth-grader Malorie Carter the top reserve post player.
Stephney’s departure and Spurlock’s injury have left a void inside. Green and Thompson have both had to switch from playing guard to fill those post positions.
“(Stephney) was just a presence in the paint defensively and offensively. She was good enough to draw a double-team and that would leave somebody else open. With Lauren injured right now, we’ve had to move Blair inside — she’s tall enough to play there, but she’s really more of a perimeter player,” coach Green said. “Morgan Thompson is a wing player that we’ve had to move into the post. From the summer that’s two guards that we’ve got playing the post right now. That’s been a big adjustment, especially for Morgan to go from facing the basket to playing with her back to the basket. She’s done a good job of picking that up and her rebounding has been a pleasant surprise.
“Getting Lauren back will help us in the post and give us more size and minutes where we can rest some kids. Right now our biggest problem is just being thin and young and a lack of experience.”
The schedule doesn’t offer many favors for the Lady Jackets. In addition to district games against regional favorite Bell County, Harlan County and Harlan, MHS also has games scheduled with perennial 13th Region contenders Clay County, Whitley County and South Laurel. Outside the region they’re taking on some bigger schools with a home-and-home against Perry County Central and a visit to Southwestern.
“It’s going to be tough, we may take some lumps this year. But we just want them to grow and keep their heads up,” Green added.
Middlesboro opens the season tonight at Perry Central at 7:30 p.m.