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OC girls start year with No. 4 Manual

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By Brad Stephens

A lot of teams across the state are starting their seasons next week with “warm-up” games in order to get a stress-free win or two under their belts.

Oldham County’s girls won’t be one of those teams.

The Lady Colonels will host preseason No. 4 DuPont Manual at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Buckner. OC will be facing a Lady Crimson team that’s won Region 7, one of the state’s toughest regions, three straight years.

Manual was state runner-up in 2010-11, state champ in 2011-12 and a state semifinalist last season.

“They can go 10 deep, send in another five that can do the same thing,” OC coach Jace Bryant said. “They’re just deep and athletic at every position. It’s going to be a challenge for us but we’re looking forward to it.”

Bryant said he was thinking ahead when he scheduled Manual, knowing his team will have to get past teams like preseason No. 1 Anderson County and No. 13 Simon Kenton if it’s to win Region 8. The Lady Colonels meet Anderson Co. Dec. 17.

“We didn’t want our girls to be shell-shocked by Anderson, like ‘this team is so great,’” Bryant said. “When we play the Manual game, we’ll already have one of those ‘this team is so great’ games under our belt.

“And we decided if we’re going to be the best team in the region we’ve got to start playing some really, really quality teams.”

This year’s Manual squad will feature a new cast of characters after its top three scorers, Kayla Styles, Destony Curry and Morgan Allen, all graduated.

Stepping into the starring role is likely to be Krystaline McCune, a 6-foot-4 center. State coaches pegged McCune, who averaged 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds last season, as the No. 13 player in Kentucky in a preseason coaches’ Top 25 poll.

Senior forward Tabitha Mitchell (5.1 ppg last year) will team with McCune to form a dangerous frontcourt combo.

“Their size will be helping them,” senior Lady Colonel forward Abigail Stewart said. “But we can’t be intimidated by their size.”

OC also features a preseason Top 25 player in senior guard Ashley McMurtrey. McMurtrey, who was ranked the 23rd best player in Kentucky by the state’s coaches, averaged 21.8 points per game last season as a junior.

Other key Lady Colonels include Stewart (5 ppg), senior center Jenna Kirk (7 ppg, 7 rebounds per game), and senior guard Hannah Patrick (6.3 ppg).

McMurtrey also said she’s expecting a big year from sophomore guard Jayla Davis.

“She’s slowed down this year, she doesn’t rush her shot and she takes smart shots,” McMurtrey said of Davis. “She knows how to value the ball.”

Davis and freshmen guards Kylee Nuernberger and Delaney Sowell may see a lot of playing time this year filling in for the absence of guard Sami Henderson. Henderson, who would’ve been playing her senior season, quit the team this week.

Beating Manual in the season will likely take a strong collective effort from all of those players.

“We’re going to have to make sure we get a shot every time down court,” Bryant said. “If our turnovers are really high, we don’t have a chance. If we can get a quality shot every time down court, keep our turnovers under 15, along with rebounding, I think we’ll have a shot.”

McMurtrey and Stewart both said the Lady Colonels have gone into these big games in recent years intimidated by the other team. They agreed that can’t happen come Tuesday.

“We’ve done that before when we go into a game scared and feeling defeated already,” McMurtrey said. “That won’t happen this year.”

 

 

Email us about this article at sports@oldhamera.com.

 

For updates of OC vs. Manual and other county basketball games, follow @EraBrad on Twitter.