CHEROKEE — With one final season left in the CNC, the Southeast girls’ basketball team looks to sign off on a winning note.
The Lancers found it rough sailing last season, winning just two games, but return a majority of a roster filled with scrappy players who are known for not allowing easy points.
“We finished 2-12, but even at the end of the season, I felt like we practiced hard every day and played hard in games,” SHS head coach Derek Sanders said. “I really think we gained a lot of physical and mental toughness that has already proven will carry over into this year.”
Although they have been struggling through difficult seasons, the current Lancers squad can’t be judged on previous seasons, as there are plenty of underclassmen looking to make a difference.
“We graduated two seniors in Kalyn Bitner and Melanie Hartman, and both were good examples to the freshmen about how we do things in practice,” Sanders said. “We do have four girls back who started at some point last year in Bailee Ulery, Sailor Jackson, MaKayla Buffington and Jessie Jenkins. We have four freshmen who are picking things up as well.
Depending on how quickly some younger players could develop, the depth for Southeast could go from a liability to an asset.
“Bailee, Sailor, MaKayla and Jessie all played a lot of minutes last year and gained valuable experience,” Sanders said. “They will still be relied heavily on, especially early in the season, but hopefully we can cut back on their minutes and keep them fresher throughout the season. One thing I never had to question last year was our effort, and with the girls we have back, I would expect that to continue.”
Since Ulery is the only senior on the team, she will be looked at as the leader, but Sanders said that she has plenty of experience filling the role.
“Bailee Ulery is our lone senior this year and has really been in a leadership role for a couple of years,” he said. “I don’t think leadership necessarily has to come from the seniors, as she has proven. Plus, we have a couple others who are starting to exhibit some of the characteristics that a coach would look for in leaders, which is very encouraging for this year and the future.”
A young roster typically doesn’t bode well for a team in the CNC, but if the first few weeks of practice have been any indication, the freshmen are catching on quickly.
“It’s always important at the beginning of the season to set expectations of how we practice,” Sanders said. “With over half the team being freshmen, it’s even more important, but I think they are figuring out the intensity and attention to detail that we expect.”
The Lancers will begin their season with a home game against Oswego at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Jordan Buckamneer is a sports reporter of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @jbuckamneer.