Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rockets open at home tonight vs CFA

Tyson Steele (in blue) will get a shot at
center during the early part of December
as returning starter at center, Gavin
Dickerson (background), works to
get into basketball shape. This picture
was from the Blue-White Game.
To borrow – and tailor – a proverbial phrase from Forrest Gump: Rocket basketball is like a box of chocolates.

It couldn’t be more true this fall as Denis Hodge shoves off for his sixth season as head coach.

“We’re not exactly sure right now what we’re going to get,” Hodge said.

The boys open their season tonight at Rocket Arena against Christian Fellowship Academy.

Despite winning just five games a year ago, the coach says this past offseason hasn’t included much introspection or misery. Instead, he and the boys have rolled up their collective sleeves and worked to get better. They’ve been in the weight room, worked on improving speed and agility and of course spent a lot of time shooting the basketball. It’s all part of Hodge’s grand scheme to have a sweet-tasting box of candy ready for Rocket fans by stretch time, if not sooner.

The coach asks for a little patience early on, however. One of the team’s best scorers is already on the shelf with a broken hand and it will be a while before the football players get into true basketball mode.

For his part, the coach has retooled the schedule, adding more small-school opponents like Gleason, Tenn., Fulton City, Ballard Memorial, Carlisle County, Christian Fellowship, Community Christian and Todd Central to the non-district slate for 2016-17.

“It’s funny who answers the phone after you win just five games,” Hodge said with a grin, pointing out that some of those teams had dropped the Rockets from their schedules in the recent past. Now, though, they are more than willing to sign back up after Crittenden finished with the second worst record in the region last season.

Personnel wise, the Rockets have a handful of returning starters or players who saw considerable action during the previous campaign.

At point guard will be senior Bobby Stephens. He has an uncanny understanding of the game and its most intricate concepts. He’s a crowd favorite because of his hustle and can touch off threes when left open. Stephens closely personifies the entire Rocket roster. At 5-foot-5, he’s not going to be the biggest guy on the floor, but Hodge says his point guard has learned to use his size to an advantage. Stephens is particularly strong for his frame, Hodge says, and he’s learned how to get under taller opponents and cause them trouble.

Senior Will Tolley was just coming of age last year when he suffered a season-ending leg injury in early January. Tolley is the team’s best defender, he’s quick and can shoot the long ball. Tolley will be one of the squad’s top scorers. The coach needs Tolley getting to the basket often in transition, ahead of opposing defenses.

The skipper says the team will have to be creative offensively.

“We will need to get some putbacks, score in transition and at the foul line,” he said.

Last year, Crittenden struggled to score when teams were able to set up their defense and force the Rockets into a half-court game.

Logan Belt, a junior who turned out to be a big scorer last season, will be the starting wingman when he heals. Belt let his temper get the best of him during a recent practice and smashed the wall with his fist.

“He broke his hand,” Hodge said. “Now we have some new team rules about those kind of things.”
Belt is one of those guys Hodge wants to see become more versatile on offense.

“He can’t just rely on his jumper,” the coach said.

Belt should be back in action by Christmas. Until then, sophomore Sawyer Towery will get some key playing time. Towery is a gem in the making, Hodge said. His grandfather was an NBA player and Towery inherited a natural ability to score.

At the other forward will probably be sophomore Hunter Boone once he’s conditioned for basketball. Boone, like Devon Nesbitt and Gavin Dickerson, is coming straight off the football field. All three will figure into the top seven when they’re game ready. Boone has a nice touch on offense and will run the point when Stephens needs a breather.

Dickerson will be the center. His tenacity and physical play make up for what he lacks in height under the rim. At 6-foot, he will certainly be among taller timber most of the time but Dickerson is a battler. He scores well by scrapping points around the round rim, but don’t be surprised to see the center pop out to the perimeter for some threes.

Junior Tyson Steele has made big improvements during the offseason, Hodge said, and will get an early opportunity to show his abilities.

Nesbitt will be one of the first off the bench. He’s perhaps the best pure athlete on the team and plays with a great deal of doggedness, especially when it comes to defense.

Junior Sean O’Leary, freshmen Erik O’Leary (brothers) and Jayden Carlson may also get some early game time with the varsity team while the coach is figuring out what he has off the bench.
The coach believes all of the pieces will start falling into place after a few weeks of game-speed action.

Fans may also get a glimpse of the future. Promising eighth-graders Preston Turley, Gabe Mott, Tyler Boone and Braxton Winders are on the high school roster and might even get on the floor this season. Turley, who is smooth around the basket at 6-foot-3, has perhaps the best chance to make an impact.
Around the region, little has changed. Trigg County has won the last four district championships and Hodge says until someone proves Payton Croft’s Wildcats aren’t the favorite, they will wear the label.
Livingston Central has a strong returning corps and Lyon County will be athletic. There will be no easy games in the district for Crittenden County; however, Hodge likes his team and likes its chances of surprising some opponents this season.

“A whole lot will depend on how we play,” Hodge explains. “If we play with emotion and at a good pace we could be okay. We will have to create scoring opportunities with our defense, scoring in transition before defenses can set up on us.”

The Rockets will try to trap and use defensive pressure in a variety of ways. Expect a regular barrage of long-range shooting as the Rockets hope to deflect attention from its lack of height on the baseline.

“The goal we have for this team is for us to be as good as we can be,” Hodge said, stopping short of any unrealistic objectives, but clearly convinced that the boys will improve as the season moves ahead.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Lady Rockets open tonight at St. Mary

Cassidy Moss scored 11 points
in last week's 20-point scrimmage
win at Ballard Memorial. Amanda
Lynch led the way with 12 points.
With Cassidy Moss in the lineup, Crittenden County isn’t going to slip up on anyone this season.
Moss is widely considered one of the top five players in the region. She’s a two-sport college prospect – basketball and softball – and is closing in on the school’s all-time girls’ scoring record.
So there is no secret where the Lady Rockets get their offensive muscle. Problem is, she’s also the team’s best defender, which can be exhausting at times.

With a bit more help from the rest of the forces, Crittenden County will be a district contender and perhaps more.

The girls open the season tonight at St. Mary, but will turn their attention quickly to league play as the girls play at Trigg County on Friday.

The Lady Rockets are certainly considered a favorite to claim the Fifth District crown. They’ve played second fiddle to Lyon County the past two years, but the Lady Lyons lost a great deal of firepower to graduation. Livingston Central is expected to be much improved under new skipper Jim Parks and armed with junior stars Tabby Padon and Kaylyn Campbell. Trigg County is retooling with a new coach, too. The Lady Wildcats will feature mostly underclassmen on Cory Coble’s first-year team.
Teams are going to key on Moss, that’s for certain. So 24-year coach Shannon Hodge knows there will need to be at least some offenive collaboration in order to reach this year’s goal.

“Our girls are in agreement that they want the district nets,” Hodge said. “They feel like they should have had them last year and maybe even the year before. Their expectations were a little higher than we performed.”

The girls were 15-16 last season and lost in the regional tournament to Madisonville. Hodge said there were a few games that “got away.” Otherwise, the campaign might have been different, certainly a winning season was expected.

Last year’s record was seventh best in the region and already some early forecasters have Crittenden picked seventh again.

Hodge thinks this team can be better and a whole lot is riding on Moss’s shoulders, but she can’t be the only burden bearer.

“Cassidy can do it all,” Hodge said. “We should have the kids around her and they expect a lot out of themselves.”

Moss who has scored 1,273 in her career – which started as an eighth grader – needs 356 points to become the Lady Rocket all-time scoring leader. Jeanne Hinchee (1973-78) is the current record holder. Between Moss and Hinchee are her coach, who scored 1,534 in her career that ended in 1985; the coach’s daughter and assistant coach Jessi Hodge Sigler, who scored 1,502; and Morgan Dooms and Chelsea Oliver. Moss scored 485 as a junior, so she’s perfectly capable of getting the record.

Flanking Moss on offense will be senior Amanda Lynch and junior Madison Champion. They both emerged as scorers last year, but will be need to be more consistent.

Lynch has long arms and legs and makes things happen defensively. She has worked hard on her offense during the offseason, improving her jump shot from about 15 feet out to the three-point line.
Champion has a similar frame and is very versatile. She can play just about anywhere on the floor and is a good rebounder.

“She can take you one on one and score and she’s a competitor,” Hodge said.

Senior Kiana Nesbitt will handle a whole lot of the inside work. She runs the floor very well with her 5-foot-9 frame and defends the post well. If her confidence improves on the offensive end, she could average double figures nearly every game and be a key component in the girls’ success.

The other two seniors, Francesca Pierce and Meredith Evans bring different skill sets to the table. Like the other seniors, they’ve been key contributors since their freshman seasons or before. Pierce is a spot shooter and natural leader. She can be a solid defender and runs the floor very well. Evans is the inside force. At 5-9, she could be physical presence under the basket and has nice touch out to about 15 feet.

Junior Mauri Collins could be the wildcard. She’s the coach’s niece and has spent a lot of time in the gym. Her game has improved as she’s gotten stronger. At 5-2, she’s learning to use her size as an advantage against much taller players, the coach said. Collins has a nose for the ball and can score in multiple ways.

Beyond those upper classmen there probably isn’t a whole lot of varsity help until you get down to the middle schoolers. Nahla Woodward will be a force in years to come. Just an eighth-grader, she logged a handful of varsity minutes last year. Chandler Moss, Cassidy’s eigth-grade sister, might also figure into the team’s depth.

There is no secret that Cassidy Moss will be the centerpiece on the team, but the trimmings will determine how far the team goes this season. Consistent scoring from the rest of the cast will create big problems for opponents.

“There are no excuses this year,” Hodge said. “We certainly can’t say we’re young and inexperienced. Our top seven are interchangeable and they each have a role.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Moss will move on all-time scoring list

Crittenden County Senior Cassidy Moss needs only 356 points to become the all-time leading scorer in Lady Rocket basketball history.
Moss Career to Date 1,273 pts
 485 Junior 15.6
 348 Sophomore 12.4
 280 Freshman 11.2
 160 8th Grade 5.9

1628 Jeanne Hinchee
1534 Shannon Collins
1497 Jessi Hodge
1333 Morgan Dooms
1291 Chelsea Oliver
1273 Cassidy Moss
1123 Vanessa Gray
1065 Jessie Mathieu
991 Jessica Cozart
985 Ali Shewcraft
852 Markeata  Brown
842 Shelly Johnson
830 Angie Hobbs
797 Robyn Davidson
793 Danette Gough
770 Jodi Perryman
770 Summer Smith
740 Laken Tabor
735 Bailey Brown
727 Serita Belt
723 Jami Tabor
708 Jill Highfil