Spartans Prep For Exciting New Season< < Back to
Alexander High School saw both its boys’ and girls’ basketball teams finish around the middle of the pack in the TVC-Ohio last season. The Lady Spartans finished in fourth with a 5-5 conference record, while the boys ended the season in third place with a 4-6 record in conference play.
But the reality of losing players to graduation was much different for both Alexander teams. The boys team only lost one senior, while the girls’ squad lost five players to graduation.
And after both teams lost in the district playoffs–the boys fell to Waverly 57-53 in the first round of the district playoffs and the girls lost 62-37 to Fairland in the distrcit finals–they are ready to focus on a fresh season with new personal, new key pieces and raised expectations for 2015.
The biggest change for the Lady Spartans this season is who's leading them. After serving as an assistant coach last year at Capital University, Cory McKnight has taken over the head coach position after the departure of Scott Hinton. With a year of coaching at the collegiate level, and multiple years of coaching at Ironton High School, on his resume, McKnight has plenty of experience communicating with players.
But for his new job, he hopes to have more of a non-verbal understanding with his team.
“I don’t like to yell a lot,” McKnight said. “I hope the girls will be able to tell what I’m thinking by the look on my face.”
That attitude is similar to Hinton last year, and so is the style of play that McKnight will try to implement. While Hinton’s “32 Minutes of Chaos,” philosophy might not carry over to this season, McKnight will look for the girls to put plenty of pressure on the ball. Pushing the ball on the fast break will be a big part of what the Lady Spartans do on offense.
“We don’t really have a big, tall, dominant inside post player,” McKnight said. “So we’re going to try and go up and down. We’re going to be guard heavy, a lot of pick-and-rolls. We are going to try to pressure the ball on defense and get out and run.”
The Lady Spartans will be without five players from a season ago, but there is still plenty of experience on the roster. Due to last year’s up-tempo play style, a lot of different players got significant playing time.
“The three seniors, Ally Malone, Ally McClain and Makina Milum,” McKnight said. “They’re going to help lead this team and they keep them doing what they need to do.”
Those three will potentially be major contributors this season. Milum is a gritty player who isn’t afraid to get inside and mix it up with taller players. Her toughness will be a key assest to McKnight and the rest of the team, as they lack a true post player.
McClain is a streaky shooter and a crafty finisher in the lane. Her presence on the offensive-end will be huge for the Lady Spartans this season.
But Malone could prove to be the most important piece on the team. As cross country runner, Malone never stops running on the court and her basketball IQ will help her make the whole team better. She is a terrific on-ball defender who can run the point on offense, or line up as the off-guard and knock down open looks from outside.
Another huge part of this team will be sophomore Leah Richardson. Richardson took the TVC by storm a season ago, leading the Lady Spartans in points, assists and steals. Her performance in the playoffs was a big reason why Alexander made it to the district finals. She worked hard all season, and earned herself a spot as the sixth man, or woman, on the Hardwood Heroes All-Hero Team.
“Leah, she kind of leads by example,” said McKnight. “You can never question whether her heart is in it. She works extremely hard.”
Despite losing five seniors, the Lady Spartans proved last year how tough they are. They are a team that won’t leave their ball handlers alone on defense, and they quietly get it done on offense. Expect their overall productiveness to increase this year.
“We haven’t really talked about goals in terms of place in the league,” said McKnight. “I’m more concerned with how we play in February and March, that’s what’s important for us.”
That attitude may not seem too conducive for success in the TVC-Ohio, but the girls know that without wins in the league, it will be tough to get a good seed come tournament time. Alexander has a lot of experience coming back, and they know the other teams in the league.
The true test for the Lady Spartans this season will be trying to hang with Athens, but expect Alexander to give the Lady Bulldogs two tough games. In the end, I see Alexander finishing in second in TVC-Ohio play with a 7-3 conference record.
In Jim Kearns’ second year as coach of the Alexander boys, he will have a very similar team to the one he had last season. The only player he will miss is a major one though, as Chris Wingett graduated after a great senior season.
Kearns only has one senior returning once again, but, as with the girls, there is a lot of experience from the lower grades coming back this season. But lone senior, point guard Jordan Mosely, will still have the main leadership responsibilities on and off the court.
“We’ll look for a big leadership role from him,” said Kearns. “He’ll be a four-year starting point guard this year.”
Juniors Seth Richardson and Mason Chapman finished first and second, respectively, in scoring for the Spartans a season ago, and they can potentially be huge parts of the offense this season.
Mosely, Richardson and Chapman were the biggest contributors a season ago and don’t expect that to change this season as they each had a year to grow and improve as an entire offense.
Mosely can get to the hoop and make the read in the paint, whether that is taking it all the way, dumping down to the post or kicking it out for an open three. His veteran leadership will also help keep this team under control if things aren’t going so well. He can calm down the team and help turn them around in the middle of a game with his energy.
Richardson is a scorer. He can get it done all over the floor and is also a great defender on the other end. He has quick hands and plays the passing lanes well.
Chapman is solid in every aspect of the game. He can score well, grab boards and he can defend the ball–and he does it from multiple positions on the court. His ability to play in all five positions allows Kearns to tinker with the lineup to create mismatches.
Apart from those three, Mason’s brother, Cory, and fellow junior Kyle Howard will provide more experience on the court. Expect them to continue their status as role players in a system that requires production from everywhere on the court.
“We beefed our schedule up on purpose,” Kearns said. “We’re trying to steer this ship to where we are playing our best basketball through the middle-end of February.”
The Spartans are going to have a tough schedule, but they have the experience, talent and coaching to finish with a good record and a good seed in the playoffs.
This team has the potential to finish the second half of the season strong, meaning they could end up in the top two or three spots in the TVC-Ohio. Finishing with a 6-4 or 7-3 record in the conference should put the Spartans in a good place heading into the district tournament.