The Catoosa County News - - WORSHIP DIRECTORY -

just the one re­turn­ing starter in Gra­cie, who has started the last two years, but we’ve lost 11 girls in the last two years. There are fewer up­per­class­men this year than we’ve had in the past three years, at least when I have been the head coach, so we’re go­ing to be de­pend­ing on a lot of the younger kids to come in and help us out a lot.”

Mcel­haney said hav­ing a team with so much youth and in­ex­pe­ri­ence can be a daily roller coaster ride.

“When you’re young, you ride a wave of hav­ing one re­ally good day and feel­ing re­ally good about it, and then have you a day when you tend to act young,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to play at a speed higher than what they are used to. The high school game is go­ing to speed up for some of them and they are go­ing to have to be ready for the kind of de­fen­sive pres­sure that you see when you play good basketball teams. They have to be ready to step up and meet that kind of pres­sure.

“But we’ve built our­selves for the past three years as a team that’s go­ing to press and play man-to-man and we don’t want to change what we do. We just need these girls to buy into that and step up.”

Se­nior Shelby Wil­son has been in the pro­gram for a while and will be get­ting her shot on the var­sity af­ter bid­ing her time on the JV squad. She will play at a guard spot, while Kelsey Lee, fresh off a state cham­pi­onship run on the soft­ball team, is an out­stand­ing ath­lete who is giv­ing basketball a try for the first time. She is still work­ing on her skills, but has proven to be a solid on-the-ball de­fender.

O’neal (9.8 points, 9.6 re­bounds a year ago) will an­chor the ju­nior class. O’neal can play just about any po­si­tion on the floor and will be counted on heav­ily in all as­pects of the game, while the rest of the ju­niors are all in their third year with the Gordon Lee pro­gram and are all be­ing counted on even more this sea­son.

Post player Mal­lory Jones has a good shoot­ing touch and will be counted on for scor­ing once she re­cov­ers from a cur­rent in­jury. Tay­lor Hun­ley is a hard-work­ing ath­lete that doesn’t mind mix­ing it up. She will likely play at the 2 or 3-spot, while Sadie Ga­s­away, who played point guard as a fresh­man on the JV squad, is now be­ing asked to play in the post. How­ever, Mcel­haney be­lieves that her ball-han­dling skills will still come into play in fast-break op­por­tu­ni­ties in tran­si­tion.

The sopho­more class con­sists of just two play­ers in Ash­lyn Sch­midt and Ad­di­son Stur­di­vant. Sch­midt played point guard on the JV team last yearn and is be­ing asked to fill that same role on the var­sity team this time around, while Stur­di­vant is an out­stand­ing ath­lete that will be able to do a num­ber of dif­fer­ent things at a num­ber of dif­fer­ent po­si­tions.

The rest of the ros­ter will be made up of a group of fresh­men that will be de­pended upon early and of­ten at the var­sity level. That group will fea­ture sis­ters Star and Skye Alexan­der, Emma Langston, Emma Mc­graw, Macy Sharp, Mila Smith, Sa­man­tha Cramer and An­nis­ton Hud­son.

“They are go­ing to be thrown into the fire early on and they are go­ing to have to step up,” Mcel­haney stated. “They have the abil­ity to do it if they just con­tinue to work. We’re go­ing to have some grow­ing pains early with this group, but they’re go­ing to be okay. It just de­pends how much they’re will­ing to work.”

For­mer Lady Tro­jan Molly Thomi­son is back to help coach the team for a sec­ond straight sea­son, while the new face on the bench will be Chris King.

Mcel­haney said he thinks his team’s ath­leti­cism will be at strength.

“We’re not very tall, but I think there are some re­ally good ath­letes who are go­ing to be ex­tremely good basketball play­ers,” the coach con­tin­ued. “Once we fig­ure out the speed of the game, we’re go­ing to be okay. They’re young but tal­ented, so we just have to get bet­ter ev­ery sin­gle day. If we can do that, we are go­ing to be in good shape.”

/ Scott Herpst, file photo

Ver­sa­tile ju­nior Gra­cie O’neal will be a go-to player for the Lady Tro­jans this sea­son as they look to get back to the Class A Pub­lic School state tour­na­ment.

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