North looking to move up in 6th Region

Drawing Pressure -- North Bullitt freshman Kylie Downey will draw a lot of defensive pressure this season as one of the team’s top scoring threats.

    HEBRON ESTATES – A coaching change is never easy, but things can be a lot more comfortable heading into year two.

    That is the situation that the North Bullitt Lady Eagles find themselves entering this season as second-year head coach Chris Downey and the players know much better what to expect from each other.

    “I would say we are a lot more comfortable,” the coach said before a practice session last week. “They know what we are doing and my expectations of them has changed.

    “The expectations last year was to play some older kids in games,” the coach explained. “I knew that we had some seniors last year who had not played a lot. That makes it difficult.”

    Things should be easier for the players and coach this season as the team is molded more into what Downey wants.

    Plus, the first season for the former Eagle player was not too bad. The team posted a 15-18 overall record. The Lady Eagles reached the final of the 23rd District Tournament before losing to Bullitt Central and then lost to Pleasure Ridge Park in the first-round of the Sixth Region Tournament.

    Meeting and exceeding those goals will make for a good winter on a team that will be older and more experienced. While Downey is pleased with his middle school group of players (Hebron had each of its three teams playing in their respective middle school championship games two weeks ago), he won’t be throwing them into battle by necessity, but by desire, if need be.

      The Lady Eagles have 14 players in the program this season who are freshmen and older. That group includes three seniors.

      North Bullitt had already scrimmaged Trimble County before Downey sat down to talk about his team and they were going to scrimmage again this past weekend at an event at Bullitt East, battling Graves County.

          “We performed pretty well,” the coach said of the scrimmage with Trimble County. “We moved the ball well. The girls like to play together.”

          At least early in the season, Downey is planning on using a rotation of eight players at the varsity level. The team returns its top three scorers from last season and added another player, Evie Harbin, a player who grew up in the Bullitt East system and can be a scorer.

          What Downey is looking to change this season is moving Kylie Downey, his daughter, from point guard to a shooting guard spot. To do that he has moved junior Taylor McKnight to point guard.

          “We want Kylie off the ball so that she can get open for her shots,” the coach said. “So with Taylor at point she has protected the ball better this season. That was a problem in the past.

          “Kylie scored like 30 points in the scrimmage,” Downey said. “She will be our best scorer.”

          Downey was second on the team last year averaging 8.3 points a game as an 8th-grader. A year ago, Downey made more three-pointers, 55, than two-pointers, 34.

          Almost 40 percent of North Bullitt’s made baskets last year came on three-pointers.

          Last year’s leading scorer for the Lady Eagles, senior Ashlee Blair, returns and will start close to the basket, but will have some guard responsibilies. Blair not only led the team in scoring last year, but also in rebounding. Blair averaged 9.5 points a gamea long with 5.9 rebounds last season.

      Another starter at a perimeter spot will be junior Emily James.

          Like a lot of high school teams, North Bullitt has a good number of guards and not many traditional front line players. So, to the average fan, the team will use four guards with a single post player. The player in the middle will be 6-2, sophomore Addy Soutar.

          The Lady Eagles also have experience coming off the bench in senior Emily Thorpe. She was third on the team last year in scoring at 8.0 points a game. Downing is also looking at senior Riley Dawson being a threat coming off the bench and the coach believes that Harbin will add some shooting coming off the bench once she gets used to the Lady Eagle offense.

          Two other players that Downey feels might be able to help the team later in the season are junior Taylor Bauer outside and Mahijah Fall, a freshman, around the basket.

          The Lady Eagles will try and get it up and down the court and to score in transition most of the time. What the team is working hard on in practice is being a better team at rebounding.

          “It’s a situation defending on the line-up,” Downey said of the style of play the team will use. “We can go small and press. We will do that against some teams.

          “Then if we play bigger teams we can do that. Run and jump works for us. We’ve added that,” the coach noted. “When Addy goes to the bench we get really small. After her it is 5-7 or 5-6 type players.”

          With Downey, Thorpe and Harbin on the court, the Lady Eagles will shoot a lot of three-pointers.

          “Absolutely,” the coach said. “We have three girls that can shoot it. We might have the three best shooters in the county in my opinion. I’ve seen those three go at it in practice.”

          But can the team rebound the ball well enough to compete with the better teams in the Sixth Region.

          “We’ll have to focus on that,” Downey admitted. “We’re not the greatest rebounding team.”

          Downey has changed his coaching staff to some extent. Tommy Boisvert, who was a volunteer assistant last year, has moved up to coach the junior-varsity squad. Justin Hearvin is returning to work with the freshman team. The two middle school coaches of the program’s feeder schools will also work as volunteer assistants – Addison Thomas (Zoneton) and Casey Bannon (Hebron).

          The Lady Eagles will jump right into the season, playing on the first two nights of the campaign. The team will open the season next Monday hosting John Hardin with the varsity playing at 7:30 p.m. A night later, the team will take on Collegiate at 6 p.m. as part of a girl/boy doubleheader.

          Before Christmas, the Lady Eagles will play host to Bullitt Central on Friday, Dec. 9. The Lady Eagles will also play three games at Bullitt Central’s Christmas tournament Dec. 20-22. Between the holidays the team will travel to a tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida.

          There will be another game at Bullitt Central in early January. The final week in January is set aside for the Girls’ Louisville Invitational Tournament. The Lady Eagles do not play Bullitt East until Feb. 10 at home.