By Jerry Fekete Banner Correspondent and Paul Adkins Sports Editor
December 1, 2013
MAN — The Man High School girls’ basketball team surprised many last season by going 15-11 and reaching the Class A state tournament for the first time in many years.
The Lady Billies, however, have their work cut out this season to say the least.
Man lost Summer Sword, the school’s all-time leading scorer, due to graduation and to make matters worse the Lady Billies only have a handful of players out for the team this year as a few girls have decided not to play.
Also lost due to graduation is Taylor Whited, another starter.
In short, the Lady Billies are in rebuilding mode heading into the 2013-14 season opener on Dec. 6 at Sherman.
Man coach Tonia Ward will count on senior Morgan Conn and junior Mika McCoy to take the reigns from the departed Sword and Whited.
It won’t be easy at all for the Lady Billies.
Madison Keffer and Jennifer Shull, two players who were going to counted on heavily this season, have elected not to return to the hardwood this season. Also not playing is Keffer’s talented younger sister Sydney Keffer, a freshman who played for Man Middle School last year.
Summer Combs, Gilbert area transfer Paige Mullins and also Tessa Mullins, are also no-shows, thus leaving the Lady Billies with a roster consisting of only nine players.
Man doesn’t even have enough players to scrimmage at practice.
It’s going to be a lonely bench and possibly a tough year for the Lady Billies.
Ward said Man must go ahead with what they’ve got.
“It’s going to take a while to get them into the flow but I think we will be OK midway into the season,” she said. “Yes, we are young and in a rebuilding year with only one senior on the team in guard Morgan Conn. Morgan is going to have to be our leader this year and there’s going to be a lot of pressure on her but she is a very good player and runs the floor well for us. She also has three years of experience and that means a lot. Morgan is a very good point guard and leader. She shoots the ball well and is a very good ballhandler and gets a lot of steals and easy breakaway layups at times because of her defensive skills.”
Ward said she hopes Morgan Conn can fill some of the void.
“She will be counted on highly to fill the shoes of Sword and Whited,” she said. “She is a very good 3-point shooter and is very tough on the boards. She will be a key to our success this year because of her athletic ability and nose for the ball. She is a pure athlete and will be strong in the paint.”
The Lady Billies have been fighting the flu bug this week and have had limited practices as they are set for Tuesday’s opener with Logan.
Also returning for Man is 6-2 center Tiffany Belcher, the tallest player on the team.
“She is a shot blocker and a force down low in the paint,” Ward said. “She can be an intimidator around the glass and is a strong rebounder.”
The Lady Billies will also count on Hannah Harvey, a leaper who was key to the statebound Man volleyball team’s success this year.
“She is a tall girl with good jumping ability,” Ward said of Harvey.
A highly touted incoming freshman for the Lady Billies is Hunter Harvey, who will probably start. The southpaw has a good shot and handles the ball well and was also a played a key role with the Man volleyball team this fall. She is also a good softball player and a good athlete and is very quick.
Man also has two other freshmen in Courtney Hinkle and Haleigh Daniels. Both will have to grow up real quick on Man’s small team. Both are expected to play reserve roles this year and will be pressing for playing time.
Rounding out the roster are freshmen Katilyn Vitruls and Misty Dempsey, who will help out Man in rebounding and shooting.
Ward has a new assistant coach this season in Zac Cox, who has helped Wyatt Skaggs with the Logan Middle School boys’ team. Assistant coach Julie Fleming has decided not to come back.
Man’s schedule will be a challenge with games against Charleston Catholic, Williamstown, Greater Beckley Christain, Tug Valley, Buffalo, Mount View, Wyoming East, Phelps (Ky.), Belfry (Ky.), Sherman and Cross Lanes Christian.
Man does not play either county rival Logan or Chapmanville. Man and Chapmanville did, however, play each other in the preseason.
The Lady Billies were scheduled to have a home-and-home this season against Class AAA state runner-up Logan but the two-game series was cancelled on Friday due to “mutual agreement,” Logan coach Kevin Gertz said. Man was originally slated to open up this Tuesday at home against Logan.
Man was blown out 89-29 in the first round of last year’s Class A state tournament by five-time Class A state champion Huntington St. Joe at the Charleston Civic Center.
It was the first state tournament experience for the Lady Billies since 2008.
Man advanced to the state tourney last year by beating Fayetteville in a 79-71 double overtime thriller. Sword poured in 32 points in the win.
Man High School Lady Billies
2013-14 Girls’ Basketball Schedule:
Dec. 3: Logan, cancelled
Dec. 6: at Sherman, 6 p.m.
Dec. 9: Cross Lanes Christian, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 16: at Mount View, 6 p.m.
Dec. 19: Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Dec. 20: Williamstown, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 6: at Logan, cancelled
Jan. 7: Charleston Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 9: Sherman, 6 p.m.
Jan. 13: Greater Beckley Christian, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 14: at Cross Lanes Christian, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 16: at Tug Valley, 6 p.m.
Jan. 20: Wyoming East, 6 p.m.
Jan. 21: at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23: Mount View, 6 p.m.
Jan. 24: at Williamstown, 7 p.m.
Jan. 27: at Greater Beckley Christian, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 30: at Charleston Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31: Phelps, Ky., 6 p.m.
Feb. 3: at Wyoming East, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 6: at Phelps, Ky., 7 p.m.
Feb. 17: Tug Valley, 6 p.m.