Knowing he was losing the top four scorers off last year’s 23-8 team, Henry County High School girls’ basketball coach Cliff Curd was worried his team might have to step back a little this season.
But after watching the Lady Patriots’ returnees and newcomers perform in the offseason, he believes his squad is ready to move right back into the role of being a District 10-AAA contender.
“We have played for the district championship in each of the last five seasons, but last March I wasn’t sure if that would continue” Curd said in a preseason interview. “We graduated twenty-five hundred career points and fourteen hundred career rebounds. It was natural to think there could be a dropoff. We went out and had a very strong summer and a good preseason camp. Our three seniors have made great strides in both their leadership and their games. Now, I think that we can make another run at the district title and can’t wait to get the season started.”
Curd called the potential for this Lady Patriots squad as one of the most exciting possiblities for him as a coach. Seniors Abby Grace Alton, Ella Bomar and Gracey Pack return with some experience along with some flashes of excellence over the past two years for the Lady Patriots. Curd said the trio has raised their game to another level.
“All three have made remarkable strides in all areas of their games. Ella Bomar has always given us solid play while Abby Grace Alton is proving to be a very good shooter. Gracey Pack missed most of last season with an injury but has come back strong. She is a great defensive player with a good shot and she can finish at the basket,” Curd said in describing his senior players.
He said the Lady Patriots were going to be a better defensive squad this season.
“I hope we can score at about the same level we have the last three years when we were around sixty points a game. I think we are going to hold our opponents to a lot less points. I don’t know that we’ve had someone you can call a true defensive stopper for a few years now but we have at least three you can put in that category,” said Curd.
That starts with the lean, long-armed Pack, who also moves well. Juniors Ally Diggs and Ta’Mya Easley also fit the bill as defensive aces. Diggs had a strong summer in all areas and especially as a rebounding ace for the Lady Patriots.
Junior Avery Cox is another strong rebounder for the Lady Patriots.
Three sophomores will see considerable action. Point guard Mary Ray Smith is a returning starter who is adept at getting the ball to her teammates for open shots. Curd hopes to see her add more of a scoring role to her game this season.
Another wing player, Averie O’Daniel, can score and Curd sees the potential for a breakout kind of season. Joining those two sophomores is energetic Shamaya Humphreys, who had a couple of good scoring performances last season before an injury and an illness shortened her season.
“The girls have done a fantastic job this summer of playing good team basketball. They share the ball well. We have gotten the program to the point where all five girls on the floor can score.
Teams often denied us perimeter shots last year and didn’t sag off to cover inside. We have improved our games to the point that if they do that this year, we can make them pay,” said Curd.
One thing the Lady Patriots have lacked the last couple of seasons is tall players but there are tall players among 10 freshman players on the Lady Patriots’ roster. Curd said Heaven Bowen is a freshman that runs the floor well and has good size. She could see some action for the Lady Patriots.
Sophie Singleton, Charly Hutson and Faith Mahone add more inside depth. A budding defensive ace is guard Harlee Veazey, while Sydney Anderson is a strong shooter in the freshman class. Guards Mary Kate Coley, Emma Mitchell, Christeonna Tharpe and Narriyah Teague round out the freshmen additions to the HCHS team.
“We might have a couple of sophomores see some junior varsity action but we probably are going to be playing all freshmen in junior varsity games this year. We have a full junior varsity schedule and it is going to be exciting watching them develop,” said Curd.
DISTRICT FOES TOUGH
As the Lady Patriots’ program moved to the top of the District 10-AAA rankings the last five years, they have bumped heads every year with Rossview in the tournament title tilts. Curd said Rossview will again be the team that all the other district contenders chase. He said the Lady Hawks play strong defense and make you earn every win against them.
Clarksville Northwest had a strong freshman player last year who made the Lady Vikings difficult to beat. Northwest likes to use pressure and get into the running game.
Curd said Clarksville High School is always well-coached and plays solid basketball while Springfield is also a hard team to beat in the district. He has heard Kenwood has some transfer players who could make an impact. He doesn’t know much about the makeup of teams at Northeast, West Creek and Montgomery Central.
A look at the non-district games has the Lady Patriots facing challenges from teams like Stewart County, Obion County, Martin Westview, Huntingdon and Calloway County. Curd said it is a good mixture of different styles that will challenge the Lady Patriots to develop their attack to be able to compete with whatever is thrown at them.
“I like to think we play a brand of basketball that is fun to watch. It has been exciting the last couple of years to see the number of fans that have come out to our games and keep coming. We have a true homecourt advantage when we have a big crowd and everyone is making noise. It is a really great atmosphere for our kids to compete in. Our girls take pride in that and want to keep playing well to make our fans want to keep coming out to watch our games,” said Curd.