GOODY, Ky. — The 2018-19 campaign for the Belfry Lady Pirates basketball team ended with a 13-18 overall record but they surprised in the 60th District Tournament by upsetting Pike Central 55-49 to win the district crown.
BHS lost three of its top five scorers from last season to graduation in forward Kylea Stanley (10.4 ppg), guard Ariel Mounts (6.8 ppg), and forward Lyndsey Miller (6.5 ppg). Leading scorer McKenzie Maynard, who averaged 14.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and seven blocks a contest for the Lady Pirates and won the WDN Area Player of the Year Award last season, transferred to Pikeville in the off season.
Also gone are departed seniors Emily Deaton and Robbi-Ann Brewer, but head coach Kevin Deskins was encouraged by the play of guards Kyera Thornsbury and Linzee Phillips at the end of last season, who will both be suiting up again in 2019-20.
“Last year kind of finished up as a surprise,” he said. “We kind of had the emergence of Kyera Thornsbury, especially right there in that district tournament, as well as the emergence of Linzee Phillips, our two guards. Physically, at the end of last season, they really grew up.”
Thornsbury, who averaged 5.5 points per game last season and will be in eighth grade this year, and Phillips, who averaged 5.1 and is an upcoming sophomore, look to be key cogs to Belfry’s success this season.
Thornsbury emerged as a future star for the Lady Pirates a year ago in the District Tournament as a seventh-grader when she scored 21 points in the overtime championship win against the Hawks.
However, arguably the biggest catalyst to the Pirates’ fortunes this season is current Cleveland State verbal commit and senior center Katie Ball, who is 6-foot-2 and can play both inside or out. She transferred to Belfry from Mingo Central last season and is a player Deskins had nothing but praise for despite the fact that she was ruled ineligible for all of last year.
“She’s one of the best players in Kentucky,” Deskins said. “We’ve had to get on to her recently in practice as far as being more aggressive to score the basketball. Every trip down the floor, she can score. It’s pretty remarkable. I’m not saying there’s not other talented girls out there, but I’ve never seen someone with that height, that strength, high basketball IQ, and she kind of thinks like me. She just understands the game and she’s extremely unselfish. She’s an extraordinary player.”
Deskins is also confident about some unknown players that will help him run the kind of style he wants to run this year.
“I have a guard that’s been with me for multiple years and she’s just a sophomore, Alyssa Varney, and kind of an unheard at this point is Cushi Fletcher,” he said. “She’s a 10th grader, smooth guard, runs the floor, she’s a fantastic player.”
Senior forward Makenna Sullivan is also expected to be a contributor for the Lady Pirates this season as is senior Taylor Layne and Tug Valley transfer Kyra Justice.
“We’re looking to kind of get up and just run, but our bread and butter is going to be defensively, mainly like a half court defensive team and kind of getting after them, and kind of push from there, but still being able to play any style that we need to give us an opportunity to win.”
The 15th Region will once again include some tough competition as well as the 60th District, which Deskins’ squad won last year. They will square off against teams like Pike County Central and Phelps, as well as every team in the region at least once, and he knows his team’s schedule is not going to be a cakewalk.
“It’s ridiculous,” Deskins said. “What I have found is, when people anticipate that you’re bad, you can schedule anybody. When people anticipate you being good, I’m going up to St. Joes. We’re going to Hilton Head (South Carolina) in our opening games versus Monacan, Virginia, who just graduated the three-time national player of the year. We play Logan. We had to go up into West Virginia and find some of those games because, locally, teams won’t play us.”
He acknowledged the toughness of the 15th Region and then pointed out one of the biggest things he tries to do as a head coach.
“Of course, we play the tough ones like Pikeville and Johnson Central in our area,” Deskins said. “I try as a coach to get not necessarily wins, but I try to look at my schedule, and you got 32 games, and have eight or 10 and I’m not extremely sweating it, but we don’t have that this year. I have to do a good job as a coach to make sure my girls understand the progression through the season and that we’re going to have troubles, but at the end of the season, based off our competition, we’re not going to have another choice but to be at another level.”
Another tournament Belfry will take part in is the Ryan Keeton eXp Realty Ohio River Classic on Dec. 28-29 at Raceland High School, with the first game being against the East Carter Lady Raiders and the other opponent is yet to be determined.
Deskins will be entering his 10th season as head coach of Belfry girls basketball, and he will be assisted this year on the sideline by Chris Phillips and Matt Thornsbury.
Deskins couldn’t neglect placing an emphasis on winning the daily battle and finishing.
“We got a very good foundation,” Deskins said. “They just have to win the day. Come in, win the day, win the drill. We got a little sign up in our locker that says “until the end”. It’s not just the end of the game, it’s the end of the drill, just becoming better finishers, and then the end will control itself.”
BHS will open their season on Dec. 2 with a home tilt against the Letcher County Central Lady Cougars.