Lady Wildcats Look To Turn Things Around
After a season that Paden City Head Girls Basketball Coach Kelly Sine bluntly termed as unsatisfactory, this November produced a new season and outlook for the Lady Wildcats’ program.
And, with a new season comes an opportunity for the ‘Cats to turn things around, since they have several top players back from last year.
“Last season was disappointing,” said Sine, “but we are returning all of our team, with valuable court experience. This year’s team will, overall, be more athletic than past season’s.
“I hope to build this program, but we are a young team. But with experience and preparation, I think we will be able to do well once we get deep into the season.“
Sine knows that, in order to be successful at the varsity level, a school must have a strong middle school program and a junior varsity squad. Sine’s assistant coach from last year, Dave Snyder, is now the middle school head coach and is working hard to build that program.
This year, Sine reached out to Bruce Crawford as assistant coach. Crawford, sports editor at the Wetzel Chronicle, brings with him years of experience as a WVSSAC basketball and softball official and was himself a three-sport letterman at River High School. For more than 25 years, he was basketball commissioner for the Grasshopper League in New Martinsville.
Returning this year is senior point guard Shauna Durant, who averaged four points and five assists on the season, ringing the bell with 21 points in a single game, against Hundred. The only other returning seniors on this year’s squad will be Sasha Newson, who will back Durant on the point. And, after sitting out last season, Amy Toman will come off the bench to hold down the center position. The trio will be called on to provide leadership in the 2008-09 season.
Although the ‘Cats took their lumps last season, they expect to dish out a little this season. Junior center Alli Bertozzi, who was named to the OVAC and Mason-Dixon Conference All-Star teams, averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and three steals per game last year.
Joining Bertozzi is Amanda Tallman, a 5’10” forward, who brings to the team a nice presence close to the basket, as well as from the perimeter. “Amanda can be a very nice player for us,” said Crawford. “She has excellent skills and can shoot, jump, rebound and drive to the hole. She can be just as good as Alicia Bell was for Magnolia, and Bell was the runnerup for Player of the Year in Class AA last season.”
Courtney Conaway, another returning Lady ‘Cat, has opened her coaches’ eyes and loves the game. “Conaway is probably the best pure shooter on the team,” said Sine. Crawford added, “If she can start believing in herself, controlling her emotion, and believe in our system, we can become a very good team instead of an average team.”
When you put Erica Sapp and Amber Palmer into the thick of things, the Lady ‘Cats look to make more than just a little noise this season. Sapp is a center that will give Bertozzi some competition. “Sapp will make Bertozzi better and make herself better to boot,” states Crawford. “Sapp gives 100 percent every night at practice and during a game,” said Sine. Palmer is a gifted player who can do a lot of things well and runs the floor well.
Turning things around this year will require players to gain confidence and develop the expectation that they can win ball games. “We want to be competitive every night out. We want to be better than a .500 basketball team. We want to improve daily, have fun, and be ready to go deep into the post season,” adds Sine.
To be a very good team the Wildcats will need to use Haley Fox, Meagan Barker, Joni Myers, Johana Simon, Amanda Heasley and Dominique Craft.
Fox, a junior who hasn’t played since junior high, will give Sine some much needed play at point guard once she understands what is needed and required of her. Barker is a spitfire who will give opponents fits when she is on defense. Myers, a forward who has been improving leaps and bounds, can rebound and shoot the jumper.
Simon, an exchange student from Germany, is a novice to the game, but her 5’10” height will help her as she starts to understand the game. Heasley and Craft are the lone freshmen on the team. Heasley has excellent shooting technique and will serve well from mid-range, while Craft will be the understudy to Durant and Newson.
“We are going to need to execute the offense a lot better than we did last season and we will definitely need to improve our ball handling and foul shooting if we want to improve and be competitive,” said Sine. “There are a number of good players that should create great opportunities for a team like us,” added Crawford.
“The opportunities for Paden City are endless, but first we need to get off to a good start and get some momentum going early,” he added. “If we do that and stay healthy, we could have a very good year.”
The first opportunity of the season will come Dec. 9 when the Lady ‘Cats visit the Cee-Bees of Clay-Battelle with a 6 p.m. JV start