Eastern Montgomery High School girls basketball has already discovered the numbers game could come back to bite them.
This year, that problem could repeat itself over and over as the Mustangs only have eight varsity players with two sophomores, one junior and five seniors.
Kelly Sutphin returns to coach Eastern Montgomery after being away since 2008.
“Our team has a lot of potential. It will be a matter of how hard the players want to work and how bad they want to work at turning their program around,” she said.
Friday night, the Mustangs started with eight players and finished with two, playing against cross-county Auburn.
Two players fouled out and another went down with a knee injury in the final three minutes of the contest. The team then lost the lead to Auburn with five on two and the game (59-51).
“Our roster is small. We have 8 on the roster with one of those on the injured list for most of the season. Every player on our team will be key for our success in one way or another,” Sutphin said.
The good news for Sutphin is the fact she returns four starters to the team this season.
Eastern Montgomery was 1-22 last season in Three Rivers District but moves to the Pioneer District this season where Covington, Parry McCluer and Narrows will be tough to beat.
Across the river in Radford, things are in a “regroup” mode for Coach Kevin Conner who is in his 11th year at the school with a 133-90 record. Last season, the Bobcats were 10-14.
The good news is that the team returns four starters in Maddy Alexander, Madison Page, Bethany Roop and Charli Dietz, and Conner really likes what he sees.
“I love our little basketball team. They take care of each other and come to practice ready to work every day. They improved each day last year and I see no reason why they can’t continue to do that this year. If they continue to work hard and improve as they did last year I see no reason why we can’t have a successful season this year,” he said.
Also, throw into the mix, Bailee Cox and Keeleigh Cormany, who both saw considerable playing time last season.
“These six players got a ton of playing experience next year. They should be ready to lift their play to the next level,” Conner sad.
In Riner, April Ketterer steps in as head coach after spending her time as the Auburn Middle School coach and with the Floyd jayvee team.
She starts with a clean slate after the team finished 3-18 last season and loses its entire starting five. The new coach said this is a young team that could be competitive.
“We will have to see who will step up and be our key players.”
The new season also means a new district as Auburn joins the Mt. Empire with state playoff regulars, George Wythe, Ft. Chiswell and Galax.
Roger Henderson, who is in eighth year as head coach, feels optimistic about his team in Blacksburg. After finishing 11-13 last season, he returns four starters to a roster loaded with talent.
“I feel great about this year’s team. We will be competitive in about every contest,” he said.
The Bruins return Kyia Williams, Tori Shimozono, Meghan Shelton and Skyler Prosser.
The air is changing in Christiansburg where there’s a new coach in charge. Joe Hutson brings lots of AAU experience to a team that is looking for a new beginning.
Last year, the Blue Demons were 10-11 and a very young squad. That means four starters, Julia Moschella, Hannah Allen, Alexis Kemp and Addie Blaine, returns with lots of experience.
“The team has been working hard to prepare for the upcoming season. They are a competitive group, they have been going pretty hard against each other in practice and are anxious for the season start. We’ve got a tough early schedule, so we’ll have a chance early on to see how much progress we’ve made,” Hutson said.
Some extra help also came with the new coach. His daughter, Grace Hutson, will provide the team with some extra help from behind the arc.
He expects to start at least three underclassmen including 6-foot Hannah Allen.
“We’re fortunate to have several guards who really shoot it well, complemented by a couple of versatile six footers who can play inside and out and then we have some physical, aggressive kids that give us good energy and toughness,” Hutson said.
“Julia Moschella is the returning player of the year in the county and she’s had a great off-season and provides so much leadership to the team. Grace Hutson will join Moschella in the backcourt. She is a freshman point guard who plays with poise and confidence and has range well behind the arc. Taleigha Miles and Kendall Lewis are athletic guards who can score in bunches and really play well in transition. Alexis Kemp is a 3-year starter with exceptional basketball IQ and instincts, she always seems to be around the ball and making plays.
“Hannah Allen is a six-footer with double-double potential who has really worked hard to diversify her game. She’ll team up with Hannah Carr, who is a little bigger and more physical and Addie Blaine who is tough and unselfish, to give us a strong inside presence. Jocey Stoner, Lauren Linkous, and Stephanie Valencic all bring energy and tough physical play. Emily Rollison joined the team late but has caught on quickly, she’s a good shooter that will be positioned to contribute as she gets more comfortable with what we’re doing,” Hutson concluded.
The River Ridge will be strong this year with Cave Spring, Pulaski, Patrick Henry and Blacksburg returning a lot of kids.