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Bears begin season with exhibition game

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By John Shindlebower

Tip-off Tuesday was last night and the Spencer County Bears and Lady Bears were both in action.

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It’s going to be an interesting basketball season with the ladies expecting to contend and the boys hoping they can surprise.

There are newcomers expected to play a big role on both teams, and returning starters who will be asked to step up even more than they did last year.

LADIES FIRST

The Lady Bears posted a winning record last season for the first time in many years. Coach Richard Dooley’s perseverance over some lean years finally paid off last season as the girls combined enough talent and experience to prove competitive in a tough 8th region. The Lady Bears finished 13-12 on the year, including a 6-6 mark in the region.

Highlights of the season included a six-game winning streak and marked improvement against some of the top teams in the area. In December, the girls lost a 62-36 decision to highly-regarded Anderson County. But come tournament time, they gave the Lady Bearcats all they could handle before finally falling 43-27.

The biggest highlight however was just seeing the improved play from previous years. The girls went from being a team opponents looked forward to seeing on their schedule, to a team that must be taken seriously.

The big newcomer for the Lady Bears this year will be on the bench, as Daniel Cox returns to Spencer County to begin his tenure as head coach after Dooley accepted a teaching job in his hometown of Campbellsville. Cox knows the expectations are raised after last season’s improvements, but he knows he has the players to continue that progress.

Headlining that list of returning players is senior center Kenisha Marshall. Marshall has matured and is regarded as one of the top players in the area. She can control the paint and provide rebounding, points and solid defense. Joining her to form a core of experienced players on the roster are: Point guard Ashley Wiley, who has been playing that position for the varsity since middle school. Shelby Pfiefer, a physical player who can be tough inside and hit the outside shot. Chelsea Gross, another solid player who is a threat both inside and outside and Jayme Thomas, who proved to have a very good stroke from beyond the arc last year.

Along with a solid bench, the Lady Bears hope to continue their progress. If last year was a break-out season after years of struggling, it will be interesting to see how the gals do now that they’ve cracked the barrier.

NOW THE GUYS

This year’s Bears are barely recognizable from last year’s squad that finished the season a disappointing 13-15, but who was competitive in just about every game it played.

Anchored by seniors like Craig Edwards and Zach Shields, the Bears last year took some of the top teams in the region to the wire, including near upsets of Anderson County and Shelby County, both on the road. Despite a slow 2-8 start to the season, the Bears regrouped, winning eight of nine in the middle of the season.

But those seniors and others have departed and what’s left is a young group, an inexperienced group, but hopefully, one that’s hungry to build a legacy of their own.

Logan Dunbar is the only starter returning. As a freshman last year, the 6-3 Dunbar showed poise and competence in the middle and should be a solid player in his sophomore season in which to build around. The only other returning player to see significant varsity action last season is sophomore guard Trey Wyatt. He’s likely to be joined by an eighth-grader at the point in Brandon Miller. Also expected to see a lot of action will be brothers Johnny and Brian Thacker. Johnny is a senior who hasn’t played in a couple of seasons and Brian is a 6-3 sophomore with good leaping ability.

Coach Jacob Barmore will have a youthful group on the bench to look to for help, as this year’s may be the youngest in recent memory.

While that might keep expectations at a minimum, it might also cause some teams to overlook these young Bears. It also bodes well for the future as the core of this Bears team will be around for a couple of years. It should be fun watching them come together.