By Chris Parker
Gainesville girls basketball has a new head coach with Lance West taking over. He will look to guide the Lady Bulldogs back above .500 after they finished 10-15 last season.
Shayla Wages is the top returning player after she earned first-team all-conference honors as a sophomore. She averaged 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game last season.
“Shayla is very athletic and has a good feel for the game. She can shoot it from the outside or she can put it on the floor and drive it to the basket. She has speed and good hands that can cause havoc on both ends of the floor,” West said. “One of the primary things I tried to get Shayla, along with the rest of the girls on the team is to improve on our mental toughness. Learning how to stay calm, focused, and play through those tough moments in a game will really help us be better as a team.”
Patience Naegele (senior), Elizabeth Kinworthy (junior), Erin McKinzie (junior) and Gracyn Blackburn (junior) all return to the varsity lineup. Kinworthy led that group with 11.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Danielle Cummings (senior), Hallee Donley (sophomore), Debra Winrod (sophomore) and Gracie Strain (junior) will be some new names to watch for on the varsity level.
West will have and overall experienced group to lean on in his first season.
“One of our biggest strengths this season will be experience. We have eight returning players that saw some varsity minutes last season. We should be 8-10 deep this year that will help give us an advantage. Three of them are returning starters from last year’s team. With size and depth this year, we will be able to more aggressive and energized on both ends of the floor,” West said.
West will look for his team to protect the ball better to limit turnovers and be aggressive on the boards.
It will take time for this team to fully gel with the goal of making noise in the district tournament.
“I hope to see our team’s chemistry build throughout the season. We must have the mindset to always have a good team attitude and work ethic. Knowing we must take it one game at a time, learning from our mistakes, while understanding how to play to our team’s strengths. This team has a chance to be a very competitive group and the goal is for us to be playing our best basketball come district tournament time,” West said.
Gainesville opens the season on Nov. 25 at home against Bradleyville.