KIDWELL - There is an air of confidence and excitement surrounding the Tyler Consolidated girls' basketball program as Coach Matt Kinnard welcomes back all five starters from a team that jelled together well last season and gave some pretty good teams fits.
Kinnard believes that his top seven players gives the Silver Knights the ability to play with just about anyone, and while he is not a huge fan of the new sectional setup in Class A, where Tyler will be playing for the first time, he believes his schedule will have his girls ready to make a serious run in March.
The five returning starters scored 55 points a night last season, led by Sophia Kinnard, the coach's daughter and one of the finest all-around players in the Ohio Valley. Sophia Kinnard had nightly performances of 15 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocked shots a season ago and only looks to improve her game during her junior campaign.
She is joined in the starting five by the Knights' leading scorer, Torrye Cline, a 5-foot-7 senior guard who dropped in nearly 15 points a night last year and 5-9 senior forward Allison Wable, who added 11. Juniors Sydney Reed (5-9, guard), the team's 3-point specialist, and Hilary Casteel (5-7, guard) round out the starting lineup.
Megan Carpenter, a 5-9 junior, rejoins the roster after playing as a freshman but sitting out last year and will be first off the bench along with senior Lauren Seckman (5-9) and 5-8 sophomore forward Sydney Yoho, who Matt Kinnard calls much improved and more aggressive. Sophomore center Breanna Yeater (5-10) is also available.
"This group of juniors has been together since the second grade and they know each other and play so well together," Matt Kinnard said. "And while Megan Carpenter sat out a year, she is making up time quickly and getting back into a groove with the other girls.
"My big thing is continuity offense. I don't have a ton of plays, I just like to let the game flow, keep it simple and let the girls get creative. They know each other well enough to do that. We also have a bunch of good freshmen, some of which will probably be moving up from jayvee during the season.
"I felt like we had a good season last year, and the game we lost to Ravenswood at tournament time, we were two points, one foul, two free throws, one turnover and one steal away from a trip to the state tournament. Sydney Reed comes out and hits three quick 3s and we are rolling. Then all of a sudden she gets her eye split open and everything just kind of fell apart for us.
"I can tell you that I am not a huge fan of how the sectional is set up. We have to pass schools that aren't in our section to travel to some other schools that are. But this group of girls are ready to battle and we will go to and play wherever they want to send us.
"There are six teams in our sectional in Class A after having four in Class AA, so in terms of playing more games it is more difficult, but I always like to tell the girls that regular season games are just tune-ups for the tournament and where you want to be playing your best basketball.
"We still play a lot of Class AA schools and the girls are just coming down from advancing to the state volleyball tournament, so we have work to do, but there is so much excitement. The girls all worked hard in the summer and they are very anxious and hungry right now. We are also doing things a little different in that we instituted a weight lifting fitness program to get a little more physical and quicker."