|Junior guard Cassidy Moss|
The girls won 16 games last year, tied for second most since 1997. Lost, however, are the team’s leading scorer and its point guard to graduation.
Coach Hodge has rearranged the pieces and thinks the personnel will be up to the challenge. Led by junior Cassidy Moss, Crittenden will be in position to compete for a Fifth District championship.
“It’s up for grabs,” Hodge said about the league title. “I think you’d have to give Lyon the early edge because they won it last year and return three starters.
“But I feel like we can compete and win against anyone in the district,” she added.
Moss averaged 12.4 points last year behind the team’s top scorer, Chelsea Oliver, who is gone, along with her 14 points per game. Moss was the team’s best rebounder a year ago with 6.3 per game. Crittenden returns four of its top seven rebounders, but scoring is where the Lady Rockets will be looking for some new leadership.
Juniors Amanda Lynch and Francesca Pierce appear the likeliest candidates for filling the basket with junior frontliners Kiana Nesbitt and Meredith Evans handling the bulk of the board work, and perhaps some inside scoring. Between Evans and Nesbitt, they averaged seven rebounds last year.
They will have to do more this time. Help on the block will also come from seventh-grader Nahla Woodward, who performed well during summer games with the varsity team.
Lynch, Nesbitt, Evans and Pierce combined for just 10 points per game last year. They will be expected to produce much more as the season opens next week.
Moss or Lynch will likely be on the point, but sophomores Madison Champion and Mauri Collins can also handle the team’s quarterbacking role.
Champion and Collins got some spot play last year, but will be called upon for more key roles this season. Champion is rangy and can be a big scorer. Collins is a good shooter and handles the ball very well.
Freshmen Shelby Summers and Kenlee Perryman have also shown in preseason games that they can help with points. Also, eighth-grade twins Emmie and Ellie Smith will figure into the mix when their middle school season ends.
“This group has so much potential,” coach Hodge said. “The factor that will define us is our focus. If we can lock in and stay locked in I think we will be okay.
“We can play half court, press, run, set up and run some sets, be big or be quick. We have lots of combinations because we have a lot of girls who are versatile,” the coach added.
With seven girls measuring in at 5-foot-7 or above – and four at 5-foot-10 – the Lady Rockets know they can match up with just about anyone size wise.
“We have very good length,” the coach said. “This is probably better length than we have had in a long time and that can be a difference maker for us if we play as big as we are.”
Nesbitt, Evans, Perryman and Woodward are the tallest girls on the team but Amanda Lynch is just an inch behind them and her wing span can look like a jet plane. Their height and long arms should give the Lady Rockets a tight zone defense.
“I think we can put a physically strong team on the floor when we want to,” the coach said.
There is also good speed. Moss, Lynch, Pierce, Collins and the younger girls all run the floor very well. For that matter, Hodge is pleased with the way most of her bigs are moving down the court, too.
“(Nesbitt) has got to be a warrior night in and night out,” Hodge said. “She will have to run the floor and get some cheap buckets.”
Hodge said Nesbitt will be a key player, asked to defend, rebound and run the floor.
Lynch, the coach said, could be the real surprise. She’s worked tirelessly in the gym during the offseason. She can score off the dribble and works well toward the rim.
Evans has a good shot from 15 feet and in, but rebounding and passing are the things she will have to do for team. Pierce can be a fierce perimeter defender and she has a nice shot from long range.
Champion will be a strong defender, play a number of positions and score inside and out. Collins is also a pesky defender and good shooter.
Summers has improved markedly over the summer. She’s one of the team’s most athletic players, and Perryman is versatile enough to play inside or out. At 5-10, she creates some mismatches at guard.
The Lady Rockets will play their normal schedule against customary rivals, and will also play in holiday tournaments at Ballard Memorial and Russellville. The Russellville field is set and Crittenden will open with Christian County and face either Central Hardin or Logan County in the second round.