BOWLING GREEN — Lincoln County is losing five seniors and four starters off a team which won back-to-back 12th Region titles.
But the cupboard is hardly bare next season for the Patriots, and those returnees say they are motivated to show they will not be in a rebuilding mode.
“Everybody thinks since the five seniors that are leaving this year they think our team’s not going to be anything. But we just have to listen to what our coaches say and we have to prove them wrong,” said sophomore forward Tiandra Hocker, who had six points, two rebounds and two assists Thursday in Lincoln’s 66-55 loss to Owensboro Catholic in the first round of the girls state tournament. “And I belive we have a shot to come back here for the next two years.”
The returning Lincoln players totaled 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists Thursday. Junior guard Rachel Spangler, who had five of those assists along with four rebounds and is the Patriots’ lone returning starter, said it would be wrong to count Lincoln out next year.
“We have younger girls that can step it up. You have Caitlin Hall who came into the game and scored and worked hard. And we have Kelsi (Honaker) and Spencer (Sims) and all the sophomores. And I just love them, and I got a chance to play with them in middle school also.”
Spangler is the only junior on the roster, but three sophomores and two freshmen are expected to step in and fill the roles left by the five seniors. Coach Cassandra McWhorter has said all season she felt confident going to her young bench, and said all that experience the young girls got this year will pay off next year.
“Our senior class is a special class, and they’ve made my job easy the last two years. But a lot of people are going to look at us and think, they’re losing a lot,” McWhorter said. “And I’ll agree with them. But I’ve got a group of girls that have sat over there and have gotten experience this year, and some even got minutes last year.
“And I think we might shock some people when they see those girls play.”
Spangler said next year’s team will look different.
“We definitely don’t have ‘Syd’ (Sydney Harris), the big, but we have ‘T’ (Hocker) stepping it up. And we have Spencer stepping up a lot, she can shoot,” Spangler said. “And we have Kelsi who can shoot. We’re going to have a lot more guards, but T can get in there and bang too.
“I think we should surprise some people.”
Hocker said the experience she and her teammates got from just playing in the state tournament will be big going into next year.
“It really gave us a boost and it’s a really fun experience. Caitlin Adams, this is her first year up here, and we talked to her about it in the hotel. It’s just great, I’m really proud of our team,” Hocker said.
McWhorter agreed that state experience, and scoring key points in the game, is a huge thing for the younger players to build on.
“For them to get a taste of that is special,” she said. “They all got a taste of it and they know what it’s like, and they’ll be hungry to get back here and they’ll be hungry to prove people wrong.
“It’s going to be a great confidence-builder for those girls. And they’ll have it to look back on to say, ‘We did it and we know we can do it,’ so hopefully it will motivate them every day in practice to get better.”