East Carter girls’ basketball adds versatility and speed under new head Coach Jeff Damron.
“The program has always been there. It is just about getting the love and the energy back. I don’t think it is that far away,” said Damron during his interview with MyTownTv and Daily Independent as part of the Northeast KY High School Basketball Media Day held on Nov. 9.
Damron is a graduate of East Carter High School and an 11-year assistant coach of the Raiders’ programs. He has stepped into the role of head coach of the Lady Raiders coming off a 500 season (15-15).
The Lady Raiders return the bulk of last season’s team including leading scorer Alyssa Stickler and Haley Campbell.
Stickler led the team with 442 points and averaged 14.7 points per game. She shot 38.1 percent from the field and 31.8 from three-point range. She had the best free throw percentage shooting 73 percent from the line.
Campbell returns 9.8 points per game and scored 294 points. She shot 34.5 percent from the field and 58.1 from the free throw line.
Stickler and Campbell each sunk over 50 three-point baskets making last season a very guard heavy team, but Damron is sure that will not be the case. With plenty of height, the Lady Raiders will adjust to what is best at the time.
“The height is there. I can play five guards if I want or we can go big. It gives us a lot of opportunities and different styles of play depending on what we need at the time,” said Damron during his interview.
Markita Gamsby, Hannah Gallion and Makyla Waggoner return under the basket.
Gallion had 195 points last season averaging 6.8 points per game while pulling down an average of 8.8 rebounds per game. She returns the best field goal percentage having shot 42.3 percent from the field.
Gallion and Gamsby are part the Lady Raiders’ four seniors along with Campbell and Mackenzie Bush.
“We have some major players coming back, Halle Swanagan and Aylssa Stickler. Then we have us for seniors...We have had a bunch of playing time over the years. We also have a bunch of younger girls we expect to come in and play good minutes for us,” said Bush during the Northeast KY High School Basketball Media Day.
Gamsby and Bush each added over 100 points. Gamsby returns 6.7 points per game and Bush returns 3.3 points per game. Gamsby was among the team’s top rebounders. She averaged 5.7 rebounds per game. She was tied for second in rebounds with Stickler.
Halle Swanagan returns 116 points and scored 22 buckets from three point range.
Some additions to this year’s team are Jascie Greene and Jaelyn Steele. They also return a lot of younger talent including Avery Hall, Karyssa Marcum, Maci Moore and Makyla Waggoner. This group of underclassmen add to an already deep team.
“I’ve got some younger kids that had some really great summers. We can go 10,11 deep in different styles of play. It makes it really fun and opens a lot of things up. It’s a good surprise,” said Damron.
Last season the Raiders finished shy of a winning season. They lost 60-49 to their rivals at West Carter during the District Championship. They look to reclaim the district and to improve on last year’s results through experience.
“I feel like we are going to shock a lot of people. New coaching staff, everyone coming back, new positions. It’s going to be a really good year for us,” said Gamsby
With a tough regular season ahead of them, the Lady Raiders will be tried and true before the postseason. They are scheduled to play several teams outside the region such as Mason County, Belfry, Ballard and Lawrence County.
“I am focused on getting us to where we need to be,” said Damron. “Playing the competition, I love playing competition. Just like in our preseason. Huntington St. Joe always has a good team. Playing teams like that help me gage where we need to be.”
Coach Damron expects to see a change in pace in order to keep up with the tougher competition. He wants to push the tempo and use the Lady Raiders exceptional depth to their advantage.
The Lady Raiders kick off their 2019/2020 campaign Dec. 2 at Raceland. They take on the Lady Rams at 7:30 p.m. opening week.
They will travel to Mason County Dec. 6 for their second game and play Mason County as part of the Lady Royals Showcase before the EKC tournament Dec. 7.