Slightly delayed, BHS basketball seasons tipping off
Friday’s would-be home opener postponed, due to Fayette’s football advance
By PAUL STURM, LCL Sports Editor
Three nights later than expected and on the road, rather than at home, Brookfield High School’s varsity basketball teams are to tip off Monday 2021-22 seasons both squads hope to make significantly more-successful, records-wise, than last winter’s.
Due to the Fayette football team’s advancement to today’s (Saturday’s) state quarterfinals and, thus, the FHS boys’ basketball team not having any full-squad practices yet, the BHS-Fayette girls’ and boys’ varsity doubleheader slated for this past Friday (Nov. 19) has been postponed to Dec. 16.
That means Monday’s non-conference trip to Huntsville to face Westran becomes the debut for the new squads of returning head coaches Ronnie Sharp (Lady Bulldogs) and Carey Davison II (Bulldogs).
It also makes Tuesday’s non-conference contests against Putnam County the home debuts for the squads which will look to improve on last season’s 5-18 boys’ mark and 4-19 girls’ ledger.
For the Lady Bulldogs, the stunning district-tournament surge – they reached the championship game and led it in the second half – on the heels of a 2-wins 2020-21 regular season elevated between-season hopes significantly for what this season could bring.
“Absolutely. Summer’s where it really showed,” coach Sharp said of the confidence boost the district-tourney performance provided. “… I felt like they were all very excited about this upcoming season.”
However, summer and fall injuries – while not having crushed them – have tamped those down.
First, Ella Daugherity, whose knee injury during the district-title game helped midnight strike during the Cinderella postseason showing, suffered a recurrence of it during the summer, coach Sharp shares, knocking her out of this entire season.
That was on top of the knee injury now-junior Kammy Dixon sustained during last season, from which she is not yet sufficiently recovered and rehabbed to be fully participating. The Lady Bulldogs head coach comments, “We’re really hoping she comes back” at some point this season.
Then, during the fall cross country running season, Sharp’s daughters Alexandra and Samantha – keys to most-effectively implementing the coach’s plan for baseline-to-baseline defensive pressure by virtue of their combination of speed and endurance – came up with health problems.
In order to facilitate her healing for the final season of her stellar track-and-field career, senior “Alex” will rest and focus on her running training regimen to be ready for the spring. Freshman “Sam,” meanwhile, will miss the hoops season because a late-September lower-leg injury sustained in a meet at Moberly, believed to have been an ankle sprain, never improved, her father relates, and, after re-examination, turned out to be a broken leg bone.
Combined with May 2021 graduations, those absences mean a shuffled roster that will be lean on experience, especially at guard, where all four injured would-be returnees would be utilized.
“We’re going to be young again this year,” coach Sharp concedes. “… Right now, we’re looking at starting a freshman and two sophomores, but I like what I’m seeing. Their basketball IQ seems pretty good.”
He refuses to concede, either analytically or strategically, that this year’s Lady Bulldogs are destined to fare no better than last.
“I think we’re going to be more competitive,” he told the LCL after last Tuesday’s “jamboree” scrimmages against Trenton and Chillicothe, “and we’re going to show people that as the year goes along.”
Even without the players he anticipated could most make an aggressive, full-court defensive approach beneficial, the Lady Bulldogs coach – at least initially – will have his players pressing full-court after scores and in backcourt dead-ball situations.
“That’s kind of my style,” coach Sharp states. “I like to be in someone’s face. As I told the girls, if I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down swinging. I like to go baseline to baseline.”
Elaborating, he says, “Some teams are going to be much better handling that than others and they might make us pay for it early on and we might have to get out of it. It’s going to come down to the scouting report and how the season goes, what type of shape we’re in, how well we read those angles, and how well we can recover when they do get over the top of us.
“… That’s what we’d like to do, absolutely, is kind of control the tempo of the game that way, not let a team just walk (the ball up the floor to the forecourt) and easily set up in their offense. If teams do that against us, I feel like we definitely can’t compete, but, if we can create a little extra pressure on them, we might get some things that go our way.”
The personnel asked to implement that approach will include sophomore Maddie Wilbeck at point guard, junior Darcy Izard and freshman Greenlee McCollum at the other guard spots and junior 5’11” Torie Trentham and sophomore Madilynn Lumsden at forward.
“Not necessarily where she would want to be or where we’d like to have her,” the coach says of Wilbeck’s role that was envisioned for Daugherity or one of the Sharp sisters, “but, in the end, due to injuries, that’s where she’s going to be and I think she’ll do a great job for us there.”
McCollum’s first taste of varsity competition in Tuesday’s scrimmages didn’t go badly, coach Sharp opined.
“She stepped right out there like she’d been out there before and I like to see that,” he reviewed. “I was a little bit worried about throwing a freshman out there, but she did just fine.”
Due to a lack of others with height, the now-5’8” Lumsden was pushed into extensive at forward as a freshman last year and showed some flashes of offensive potential.
“Hopefully she’s worked through those growing pains from last season and will step up and really be a leader as a sophomore,” the coach says hopefully.
Promising 5’6” freshman Jerzi Fields, herself having previously dealt with a left knee injury, figures to be in the action a good bit off the bench, especially as long as Dixon remains unavailable.
Asked for what he considers the strength of his squad at season’s start, coach Sharp offers, “The camaraderie between the girls.
“That is really important this season because every single one of them is going to be back next season, … so if we can build that teamwork and that camaraderie this season, it’s just going to (carry over) right into next season and it’s only going to be a plus for us then.”
As for the most immediate need for improvement, he reflects, “I’m concerned about how well we can handle a team that’s got some length and pressures us. … We’re going to try to do our best to counter that.”
On the boys’ side, Davison is dealing with the graduation loss of last season’s top two offensive threats – guards Carsen Beckman and Beau Kunkel, but is very optimistic this year’s squad has the variety of components required to deliver the necessary points.
“I think we’ve got a really, really nice mix of some speed, athleticism, and then we’ve got the size and physicality, too,” he assessed after last Tuesday’s rollout at Chillicothe.
enthusiastically, he later added, “We’ve got a really great team this year. I’m excited for it.”
While Davison expects he will get sufficient scoring through more diversity – although strong, 6’5” senior Bryson Collier figures to supply a good chunk of it, it’s how the blue-and-white play on the other end of the court and how the Bulldogs rebound which will determine what they achieve, the coach believes.
“It all starts for us on the defensive end,” he told the LCL Tuesday after the scrimmages against Trenton and host Chillicothe.
“… That’s what we’re trying to hang our hat on. We get that going and we’re going to go on a big run and have a lot of success.”
Noting his club was out-rebounded nearly 2-to-1 a season ago, the BHS coach labels that aspect of the game as his primary concern at the start.
“We just need to rebound,” he opines. “… That’s just a huge area for us.”
Unlike the girls, the ’Dogs are physically healthy as the season begins, even senior Mitchell Day, who is slated to be a starter at season’s commencement after battling injuries as a sophomore and junior, Davison notes.
Joining him in the starting five will be returnees Collier and senior Tommy Gunn with juniors Amos Baum and Owen Boley at the guards.
“We have a situation we didn’t have last year. We actually have quite a few returners coming back with varsity experience,” Davison points out happily. “It’s nice to have those guys back.”
Collier has “progressed really well over the last two years, becoming a dominant threat down (around the basket),” describes Davison.
Of Gunn, who was a very-undersized forward at 5’10” last year, but now shifts back to a “3” guard spot, he says, simply, “He’s our heart and soul. He’s our effort guy.”
The outcourt tandem of Boley and Baum, both around 6’ and quick, will be looked to for creating defensive havoc.
“We get those two guys defending the ball in the full court, we’re going to be very difficult to beat,” projects Davison.
Baum is “the most-athletic kid, quickest kid we’ve got. He helps extend the floor. Gets out (on fast breaks) for some easy transition points.”
Boley is stepping into a bit of an on-court leadership role, the coach relates.
“He’s making sure guys are where they’re supposed to be” at both ends of the court.
Waiting to be summoned early from bench are sophomores Hank Parks (guard) and John Walgren (forward), both of whom played extensively as freshmen the Bulldogs’ coach says.
Parks’ strength is 3-point shooting,” reports Davison. “He’s really gained some confidence and he’s bulked up a little bit, too,” he notes.
Also likely to be used are senior Joseph Levell and junior Layne Schriener.
Davison says it appears many outsiders are projecting continued struggles for the Bulldogs, due to the loss of Kunkel and Beckman, but he has a far different prospective perspective.
“I told the guys there’s an opportunity to do a lot of ‘firsts’ in the program,” he declared after watching Tuesday’s scrimmages at Chillicothe.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a winning season. It’s been a long time since (the Bulldogs) have had 20 wins. It’s been a long time since they won a tournament championship, won a district championship, and I told them, ‘Those are all goals that you guys can accomplish. We’ve got the pieces.’
“… I told them this is not a rebuilding year; this is our redemption year.”