GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Kennett girls look to continue to develop youth at up-tempo pace

Photo by Dustin Ward, staff
Pictured are members of the Kennett high school girls basketball program. Pictured front row left to right are: Alaysia Walker, Kaitly Puga, Briana Pittman, Sophia Boone, Laney Lack, Katelyn Chitester, Mallory Morrow, Malea Lack and Kyra Jaco; pictured back row left to right are: Katara Raiford, Taleigh Harrell, Kaniya Madlock, Antonia Randle, Caroline Patton, Ara Spielman, Anelle Harris, Lani Heeb, and and head coach Aaron New. Not pictured is assistant coach Janeisha Gooden.

The Kennett Indians girls basketball program enters its 2019-20 campaign with hopes of adopting an up-tempo style of play under new head coach Aaron New.

“We are still trying to figure out what the girls do well so we can match what we want to do with our personnel,” New said. “But I like to play up-tempo on offense and get some easy buckets in transition. I typically like to play man on defense but I’m not sure if we will be ready for that yet at the beginning of the season.”

New, who has served as the head baseball coach at Kennett for over a decade, is returning to the bench to coach girls basketball after a lengthy absence from the court.

“It’s been 18 years since I’ve been a head basketball coach so I’ve been learning our players and my role as their coach,” New said. “Coaching basketball is almost something that is brand new to me again.”

New inherits a high school program with two seniors, three juniors, four sophomores, and six freshmen.

He said he currently plans on going eight or nine deep on the varsity squad with the remaining players receiving playing time on junior varsity.

“Some of the underclassmen will split time on both teams,” New said. “Right now I can see us going eight or nine deep on varsity. In the past, I’ve typically liked to go about eight deep but we will see how things go.”

Kennett is returning six players who saw significant playing time on last season’s varsity squad that finished 11-15.

The six returners are seniors Mallory Morrow and Antonia Randle, juniors Kaniya Madlock and Caroline Patton, and sophomores Ara Spielman and Kyra Jaco.

“They had some growing pains last year and got a little bit better throughout the season,” New said. “Hopefully, they will continue improving as the season progresses again this year.”

Guards Morrow and Jaco are likely to handle the ball for the Indians.

“Mallory can play the point and the two-guard position for us,” New said. “She will help handle the ball and have a leadership role for us on the floor as a senior.

“Kyra was our point guard most of last season,” New added. “She’s can score it and handled the ball for us a lot as a freshman. She did a lot for the team last year and we are expecting a whole lot more this season from her.”

Madlock also saw significant playing time as a guard last season as an underclassman.

“She’s a quick guard that is a shooter and a slasher,” New said. “She got a lot of minutes her sophomore season.”

Patton, who is the tallest player on the squad, is a strong candidate to eat up minutes in the paint but also has the versatility to knock down perimeter shots.

“We expect her to be a big scorer and rebounder for us in the paint,” New said. “She’s a five-eleven post player that can step outside and shoot it.”

Spielman also saw minutes in the paint as an underclassman last season.

“Ara is a big post player inside that got quite a few minutes as a freshman last season,” New said.

The Indians’ sixth returner who saw significant time last season - Randle - is questionable for the start of the season after suffering a knee injury the first day of practice.

“Antonia was a starting post player most of the year for us and is bringing back a lot of experience,” New said. “She’s a great rebounder. The best-case scenario we hope is she has just suffered a strain and she’s back in a few weeks. But we will know more after the MRI.”

New believes incoming sophomore Anelle Harris, who dealt with a knee injury of her own last season, could also make an impact on the varsity squad this season.

“She’s really stepped up and showed some really good things in the offseason,” New said. “She plays extremely hard. She’s someone that can come in and defend and rebound. I really like what she’s been doing so far this year.”

Junior guard Katelyn Chitester, who was one of the top junior varsity players last season, is another candidate to eat up minutes on varsity.

“Katelyn received a great deal of playing time on the junior varsity last season and has shown some improvement this fall,” New said.

Incoming freshman Taleigh Harrell could also be a candidate to make the jump to varsity before the playoffs begin.

“She’s really quick for a freshman,” New said. “I’m not sure she’s ready for varsity yet but by the end of the year could possibly be knocking on the door.”

Kennett opens its season Nov. 25 when it visits Kelly. Kennett went 1-1 against Kelly last season.

“We won the first game against them last year at home and then they got us in the district semifinal in overtime,” New said. “It will be a big game for us to start the season.”

The following week the Indians will compete in the SEMO Conference Tournament at Cape Central High School.

“It’s an extremely difficult tournament to start the season with,” New said. “All the SEMO Conference schools were pretty decent in basketball last season. It will allow us to see where we are at real quick. We can also go back and watch those films and see what we need to do to get better. That’s the way we will attack it.”

Six of the Indians' first seven games are on the road or at neutral sites. Kennett’s only home game before January is Dec. 19 when it hosts Doniphan.

“We are going to be road-tested early,” New said. “Our only home game before January is against a very good Doniphan team.”

Kennett Girls Basketball Schedule

12/2-12/5SEMO Tourn.TBA
12/21-12/28Lady Royals ClassicBroseley
1/23Twin RiversAway
2/6East PrairieHome
2/10Cape CentralHome
2/13Saxony LutheranAway
2/20Poplar BluffHome
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