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Progress isn’t always measured by speed, but by direction. The Spencer County Lady Bears have made huge strides in recent years, culminating last season in a trip to the 8th Region tournament.
While there are some experienced players returning, the team will have to find a way to make up for the loss of Kenisha Marshall, who graduated last year as one of the program’s most prolific scorers and rebounders. Head Coach Daniel Cox said the key to the program is to keep moving forward.
“The graduation of a great player and leader like Marshall will definitely have an impact on the program as a whole, but the players are really stepping up to the challenge,” said Cox.
Graduation didn’t deplete the Lady Bears from talent, and the experience of a team with four seniors and five juniors may be a key to success.
“We have some very experienced leadership in our juniors and seniors, while overall we are a very young team. Our freshman team is made up by a majority of 7th and 8th graders, while many of our freshmen are playing up,” said Cox.
“The chemistry between our 4-year starter Ashley Wiley and last year’s most all-around player, Chelsea Gross, has grown even stronger since the absence of Marshall. Gross is the front runner to lead us in scoring but everyone better watch out for Jayme Thomas. She has to be the most improved player since last year in both leadership and scoring potential. I look for her to give Gross a run for her money as our leading scorer this year,” said Cox.
The Bears will look to those seniors to lead the way, but juniors like Sydney Spencer and Mackenzie Smith will also need to step up. The 5-2 Spencer is a slashing guard who got some valuable experience last year, and Smith can be a dangerous outside shooting threat for opponents.
But there is youth on the roster as well. Two freshmen, McKenna Pfeiffer and Mackenzie Keown and an 8th grader, Mackenzie Myers, will likely see considerable playing time on the varsity squad this year.
Cox said he’s excited about Myers future.
“She really stepped up in the off season and showed us that she can be an instant scoring threat. Pfeiffer has also shown to be a great asset on defense. They will be asked to grow up a little faster than expected, but could give us the boost we need.”
While Marshall’s size and ability to score inside will be missed, Cox said that void has forced the Lady Bears to be more balanced this season.
“We can score from many different areas and from many different positions,” he said. “This has caused us to become a less-inside minded offense and attempt to spread the floor.”
Cox said there are new offensive and defensive schemes the girls will adopt this season and said he’s noticed the girls may be even working harder than last year’s squad.
It’s hard to predict where this team could go, but a senior-laden team does have an advantage, and Cox recognizes that potential.
“It will all come down to the leadership of the seniors. They have played together for a long time and it is up to them to bring these young players up with a hunger to win.”
Whether that translates to a repeat trip to the Region tournament is unknown, but Cox said the team continues to move forward.
“I think the program is on the right track and I am very excited about our present and our future,” he said.