Coming off its first trip to the regional tournament since 2014, the Lady Cat basketball team looks to build on last season’s success in 2022-23.
Last February, Henry County defeated Carroll County in the district semifinals to advance to the 31st District championship. Despite the loss to Owen County for the title, the Lady Cats moved on to the Eighth Region Tournament for the first time in eight years, but fell in the first round to South Oldham.
“I am beyond excited for this season,” said head coach Jim Hook. “This group has incredible chemistry and a true blue collar work ethic. This team is extremely dedicated and our practices are intense, physical, and they are loud!”
The Lady Cats return the entire roster from its 13-16 campaign in 2021-22.
More notably, every starter will assume their positions from last season, including senior post player Ashlyn Tingle.
“Ashlyn Tingle is our leading scorer from last year and our leading rebounder. She gets out of bed and is halfway to a double double. She has really added a consistent jumper to her game,” said Hook.
Tingle averaged 12.5 points per game on 44.4% shooting along with 10 rebounds per game last year.
Complementing her down low is senior Meg Golden at the stretch four spot. She finished with 108 total rebounds and 90 points in 2021-22.
“She has physically gotten stronger and is really added to her perimeter game,” said Hook.
Rounding out the starting lineup is Kennedy Brown at the three, Madeline Lay at guard and Micah MaGruder at point guard.
“(Brown) is a true leader in many areas. I think she has added a level of physical play and improved passing this year. Madeline Lay is one of our guards and our second leading scorer a year ago, and now is a more complete player. She can score at all three levels,” said Hook. “Micah MaGruder is in her fourth year running the point for us as a 10th grader. Having her on the floor is like having a fourth coach with us.”
Henry County’s final senior, Emily Herbert, will provide a spark off the bench as a three-point specialist.
“We, as the senior players, are really confident going into this season. This year we plan to come out ready to play each game. We want to get better every minute that we are on the floor, working towards winning our sixth district title,” the seniors said.
On top of the starting lineup, several players have the chance to make an impact on the floor off the bench.
“Ella Royalty dressed a year ago, but has transformed as an athlete and will help us tremendously this year. I also expect sophomores Rylee Whalen and Taylor Corum to give us a boost defensively off the bench,” said Hook.
Having a roster of seasoned players is an advantage, but Hook sees the leadership from his seniors making the biggest difference when play begins at the end of November.
“Every day I get to watch my upperclassmen teach so much to my younger players,” said Hook.
In terms of strategy and play-making, the range and depth of shooters is something to watch for throughout the season. The Lady Cats collectively shot 31.7% from the field and 22.2% from 3-point range.
Above all, the Lady Cats’ signature defensive intensity has been a focal point of the preseason. Hook hopes to see his team apply even more pressure to opponents than in recent seasons.
“We have focused on taking better care of the ball and improving our defense. Every year we expect to be a top 25 team defensively and that doesn’t change for us. This year we hope to dictate the game by increased pressure on the ball,” said Hook.
With a locker room full of familiar faces, following Hook’s vision for the team and building on-court camaraderie won’t be a big challenge.
“We use the preseason workouts as a way to build team chemistry by overcoming frustrations and learning more about each other physically, mentally and emotionally,” said the seniors. “Our team is really close this year. By knowing each other's abilities we are able to push each other and play better.”
With a district title in mind, the first test for the Lady Cats will come on Nov. 29 against Bellevue.
“If you are a fan of high energy and team basketball then I beg you to come and watch your community's basketball team of homegrown talent,” said Hook.