UPDATE 12/4: The Williamson Daily News learned during the Lady Hornets first game on Tuesday, Dec. 3 against Hurley that coach Johnny Fields resigned as girls' coach days before the start of the season. The WDN will have more on this story and his replacement in a future edition. 

 PHELPS, Ky. — The Phelps girls basketball team didn’t have the season they hoped they would have last year, as they finished the campaign with a 12-15 overall record and a 53-36 loss to Belfry in the first round of the 60th District Tournament.

Head coach Johnny Fields, however, is confident that things will look better this time around.

“We’re expecting to have a good year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of returning players that is going to help us a lot, and a lot of leadership. It’s the most seniors we’ve had since I’ve been coaching at Phelps, and we’re excited. We really are.”

Three key players for Fields’ squad that return from last season are senior guard Danielle Prater (16.9 ppg last season), senior forward Chloe Smith (9.4 ppg), and junior forward Kacie Dotson (5.8 ppg), but Prater was one of the best players in the 15th Region a year ago.

Along with her points average, she tacked on seven assists and five rebounds per contest and has been putting up similar numbers for her entire career at Phelps. She has now tallied 1,957 points wearing the Hornet Blue and is arguably the best player PHS has ever had, and Fields can back that up.

“She has just blossomed into a heck of a player,” Fields said. “She’s 40 some points shy of 2,000, she’s already the all-time scoring leader in Phelps girls basketball history, and we believe if she has a season like she’s had the last couple of seasons, she’s probably going to finish with 2,500 or more points in her career, and be top-20 in the state. She’s just a phenomenal player and she works hard, she has a good attitude, she listens, and she can see things developing on the floor before they ever really happen. She’s a competitor. She hates to lose, and she wants to win. She’s got a full motor.”

He also couldn’t ignore the value that Smith will bring to his team, a player that he expects to step up in a big way this year.

“Last year, she really improved a whole lot,” he said. “We’re looking for her to really give us a lot this year. Her and Danielle (Prater) are our two captains. We’re expecting big things out of both of them. Chloe is just a pure shooter, and I think she’s going to surprise some people with the year she’s going to have.”

Other players that are worth mentioning are a pair of senior guards in Alyssa Sargent and Ashton Reed, who averaged 2.2 and 1.1 points per game last season, respectively, and forward Kaylynn Layne, who is an eighth-grader.

Phelps knows they are going to have a tough go at it in the 15th Region as well as the 60th District. They also play in regular season tournaments this season such as the Smoky Mountain Classic and the 15th Region All “A” Classic. Fields placed a large emphasis on how his schedule will get them ready for bigger things down the road.

“The one thing that we’re looking at is, from the very get go, every game is to get us ready for the district tournament and regional tournament,” Fields said. “The mindset that I’m trying to get these girls to get is to have fun, but it’s about taking care of business, being focused, and knowing what we want to do. There’s going to be ups and downs throughout a game and a season, but don’t let those downs turn into long periods of time.

“Just the attitudes of the girls, you can see that they’re hungry and want to win and they’re excited,” he said. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time, and one week at a time and get ready, and hopefully by the end of the season we’ll be ready to go and surprise some people in the district and region.”

The Lady Hornets will be playing with heavy hearts this season as they honor former guard Gabby McCoy, who would have been a senior, but tragically passed away earlier this year. Fields expressed what his team’s plans are to honor her this year.

“Our girls have really came together and gotten really close through all of this,” he said. “Everything we do this year, we wanted to honor Gabby and her memory. We’ve ordered some custom shooting shirts that the girls are going to be wearing and there’s some other things that we have planned throughout the season. It’s hard to replace that kind of leadership and person, and her personality, and these girls are talking in practice about Gabby and how they miss her, but at the same time, they’re focused.”

The kind of person McCoy was happened to be something that he couldn’t help but praise.

“Her personality was just bigger than life,” Fields said. “Her smile, it’s just contagious, and that’s one of the things, you just walk into practice and there’s not that personality there. Our girls have decorated the locker room and her locker, and we’re just doing our best to cope with it and to honor her with everything we do. “The one senior last year was her sister, Brittany (McCoy), and they worked just like typical sisters. They were sisters’ best friends, they were inseparable. It’s just a big loss, but we really want to honor her and her family and do everything we can to make her proud.”

He backed up the notion that basketball isn’t just about what happens on the court.

“Sometimes, it’s about more than just basketball,” he said. “It’s about life and teaching these girls life lessons. This has taught us a lot, but it’s also brought us together, and we miss her, but we’re going to do everything we can to honor her and do everything we can for her. Those senior girls, they are so close, and all of them have pulled together, and that’s just been the mantra — let’s do this for Gabby.”

Fields will be entering his sixth season as head coach of the Lady Hornets and has compiled a 49-89 overall record in his time at the helm. He is still searching for his first winning season as the leader of PHS, and he believes this year is one where his squad can reach new heights.

“I think this has the potential to be one of the more successful seasons that we’ve had,” Fields said. “We’re just excited. People don’t realize the excitement that the players have, and it’s contagious to me. I’m one of the biggest competitors that there is. I love the competition, I love basketball, and I hate to lose, but these girls are so excited, I’m excited, the coaching staff is excited, and we can’t wait to get started. We were biting at the bit to get that first game and get the season started.”

They will tip off the new season on Dec. 3 with a home match-up against the aforementioned Hurley Rebels.

2019-20 Phelps Lady Hornets Basketball Schedule

Dec 3 Hurley, VA home 6:00 PM

Dec 5 Magoffin County home 7:30 PM

Dec 10 Paintsville away 7:30 PM

Dec 12 Man, WV home 7:30 PM

Dec 13 Prestonsburg home 7:30 PM

Dec 17 Betsy Layne home 7:30 PM

Dec 19 TBA at Gatlinburg-Pittman Smokey Mountain Classic

Dec 20 TBA at Gatlinburg-Pittman Smokey Mountain Classic

Dec 21 TBA at Gatlinburg-Pittman Smokey Mountain Classic

Jan 3 East Ridge home 7:30 PM

Jan 6 Martin County home 7:30 PM

Jan 11 Piarist School at East Ky. Expo Center 6:00 PM 15th Region All “A” Classic

Jan 12 TBA at East Ky. Expo Center 15th Region All “A” Classic

Jan 16 Pike County Central away 7:30 PM

Jan 17 Prestonsburg away 7:30 PM

Jan 20 Belfry away 7:30 PM

Jan 24 Jenkins home 7:30 PM

Jan 25 East Ridge away 7:30 PM

Jan 31 Belfry home 7:30 PM

Feb 1 Twin Valley,VA home 6:00 PM

Feb 4 Hurley, VA away 6:00 PM

Feb 8 Pike County Central home 6:00 PM

Feb 10 Twin Valley,VA away 6:00 PM

Feb 11 Man, WV away 7:30 PM

Feb 13 Paintsville home 7:30 PM

Feb 15 Magoffin County away 7:30 PM

Feb 17 Martin County away 7:30 PM

2019-20 Phelps Lady Hornets Roster

# Name Position Yr.

1 Danielle Prater G Sr.

3 Amelia Casey C, F Fr.

10 Kacie Dotson F, G Jr

11 Chloe Smith F Sr.

12 Emily Prater G So.

20 Ashton Reed G Sr.

21 Kaylynn Layne F 8th

24 Kylie Hall C, F So.

33 Alyssa Sargent G Sr.

Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.