Dwayne Murray recently gathered all of the seniors on this year’s Monroe County High School girls’ basketball team and asked them a very important question. The Lady Falcons have had great success over the past three years, including a 77-19 record with big wins in the district and region tournaments, and the All A State Tournament.
Murray wanted to know what kind of mark this year’s senior class wanted to make. “What legacy,” he asked, “do you want to leave with this program?”
“We expect big things out of them,” the coach said. “They expect to win and they know how to win. Now it is their turn. Will we be an average team or will we compete for the district title, the All A title or the region title? They know what I expect out of them.”
The Lady Falcons will probably play a four-guard system this year with the return of experience at almost every spot.
Look for senior Kayla Murray, the coach’s daughter, to run the point. Kelsey Kirkpatrick should probably start at the two-guard with fellow seniors Kellimae Polston and Lauren Turner on the wings.
“Kayla Murray is now 100 percent healthy and she will be fine at the point. She averaged about 10 points a game last year,” Murray said. “Kelsey Kirkpatrick is back from last year and will probably be the two guard for us. She shoots the ball really well when I can get her to shoot it. Lauren Turner is back at the four spot for us. She’s really strong and aggressive on defense. And Kellimae Polston will also see time for us. She got a lot of valuable experience last year. She runs the floor well for a big girl and she shoots the ball very well.”
The fifth starting position could go to one of several players. Junior Sara Wilson probably has the nod over sophomores Payton Cloyd and Lakota Ethridge.
“The guards on this year’s team better score for us, and I think they can. All four are good shooters,” Murray said.
“Our post players better be good defenders, especially when we play teams like Glasgow. That will be a key for us this year.
“I like the depth we have this year. I believe we can possibly play 10 players and (that is important this year because) I think we’re going to probably press this year.”
And when Murray talks about his depth, he feels confident calling on any of them to contribute. In the group, he has size, speed and shooting ability.
“Reagan Turner came off the bench as an eighth-grader last year and she will see a lot of time on the floor this season. She is really quick and handles the ball well,” Murray relayed. “Ashlee McGeorge, a 6-0 freshman, reminds me a lot of (former Monroe County star) Caylan Bybee. She doesn’t quite have the size Caylan had, but she can run the floor and she can shoot. She’s not there yet, but she has the potential to be very good.
“Kelsey Johnson, another freshman, is quick and lanky. She can shoot the ball and has shown great potential. Claire Bybee, Caylan’s sister, is very intelligent and she’s going to be a big asset for us. Meg Harlin, the younger sister of (former Monroe County star) Molly Harlin, is a guard and she should be able to help us on defense. Lauren Hammer gives us some good size in the post and Shelby Sparks has great potential. Kelsey Rhoton is a new player and still learning our system.”
Murray said there is a lot of potential on this year’s squad. However, he knows success will depend heavily on team chemistry and on the development of his younger players.
“A lot also depends on these younger players,” Murray said. “We want to see who our best five are, whether it is two seniors, five seniors, two seniors and three freshmen, we’re just waiting to see who steps up. We play to win, so I am going to put my best five out there.”
Though some preseason prognosticators believe Monroe County has a good chance to win the 15th District, Murray gives the favorite nod to Allen County and Glasgow.
“I think Allen County is probably the favorite in the district. Morgan Rich is phenomenal and they have most of their players back. Glasgow is right there with them. They have two Division I players in (Shalika) Smith and (Bre) Glover,” Murray said. “And then at Barren County, (coach) John Butler always does a good job with his team. He won’t be as bad as he says he’s going to be. He always has them ready and I don’t know that I would want to play them in the first round of the district tournament.”
Murray said he thinks his team is ready to get the season started, but he said there is a lot of work for the Lady Falcons to do.
“Our defense is key for us to have a chance to win. We have to play good defense,” Murray explained. “Offensively, I don’t think we have that player that can step up and score 30 or 40 points every night. But I do think we have the potential for five of them to score in double figures each night. We need a balanced attack, so that means everyone needs to step up.”