Steve Kirkpatrick, the head boys basketball coach at Monroe County High School, made an effort to strengthen his schedule this season. The Falcons are the preseason favorites to win the 15th District and Kirkpatrick knew with the team he had coming back, a tougher schedule would help prepare the Falcons for the postseason.
It would be like a new chance to learn, if you will, each time they took the floor.
Well, some lessons have been tough. Monroe County is 1-2 on the year with a season opening victory over Franklin-Simpson and narrow back-to-back losses to Southwestern and Clinton County. The tough schedule will get racheted up another notch on Friday when the Falcons visit the undefeated Barren County Trojans. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.
“I haven’t had a chance to see them play this year, but I know we have to key on their shooters and not let them have open looks,” said Kirkpatrick. “We’re also going to have to pick it up offensively, so that we get our defense going. We talk about wanting to be an uptempo team, but if we’re not stopping teams defensively, then it is kind of hard to get in a fast-paced game.
“And Barren County is just so physical. I told our kids we’re going to have to start playing more physical.”
The Trojans, last season’s District 15 champs, opened the year with an impressive win over Green County. They followed that with a victory over Russellville and then picked up their third win of the season on Tuesday when they narrowly escaped Allen County-Scottsville with a hard-fought 61-59 district win.
“Barren County has some really good players,” Kirkpatrick relayed. “Besides (Charley) McCoy and (Barrett) Billingsley, I really like the hustle the (Ben) Leftwich kid brings to the floor. He goes to the boards strong. Then they have the (Bo) Hubbard kid, and the two (Nick and Zach) Mabe boys are playing well.”
Though he wants to win every game the Falcons play, Kirkpatrick said he’s got some work to do with his own team. The Falcons are a talented group, but Kirkpatrick said he’s looking for some players to step up and make an impact. He looking for someone to take charge.
“Right now, we’re not playing like I would like to see us play,” Kirkpatrick said. “I am looking for some guys to step up for us. I have to have some guys step up that will contribute more for us on the offensive end. We’re a little behind where we want to be in that part of the game right now.
“We’re not getting the offensive production we want. A lot of it is probably nerves. And I think the kids are hesitating a little bit too much. I tell them, ‘if you’re open, shoot the ball with confidence and knock down the shot.’”
Friday’s game will be Monroe County’s third game on the road in four outings this season. However, Kirkpatrick hopes Falcon fans will make the trip to BCHS on Friday to help neutralize what he considers a home-court advantage for the Trojans.
“I hope being on the road won’t bother our kids,” Kirkpatrick said. “Barren County has a good student section and I think that helps (with the home-court advantage) their team. I just talk to our players about tuning everything out except what they hear from the bench. We tell them to just listen for the coaches’ voices.”