The East Jessamine girls’ basketball program had its struggles last season. The Lady Jags went 3-26 overall and lost their last 20 games.
However, last year’s squad was extremely young and plagued with preseason injuries.
This year’s team returns a wealth of players with varsity experience and a talented group at the top in seniors Maddie Haney, Carlie Harrison (who missed the 2011-’12 season) and Heather Welch.
“(Harrison) will be a big help,” East coach Jacqueline Coleman said. “She has a lot of energy, has leadership qualities and is a great defensive player.”
Harrison will be running the point, and Coleman will look to her to keep the ball under control and minimize turnovers.
“(Haney) is one of our best shooters, and gaining confidence is something that we’ve worked on over the last year with her,” Coleman said.
Welch isn’t the biggest player, on the team, but her athleticism and power is turning her into a post player for the Lady Jags. Welch is the goalkeeper for the soccer team and catcher for the softball team.
“We call her a post player but she’s not very big,” Coleman said. “She’s the quickest player on our team, so that helps a lot too.”
Coleman said the senior class has a lot of chemistry having played soccer all fall together.
East also has six juniors and six sophomores who had some decent playing time last year.
The junior class features some talent with Jennifer Howson and Maddison Stollings. With Harrison missing last season, Stollings stepped into the point-guard role and gained a lot experience by fire, so to speak.
“This year it’s going to be nice for her and Carlie to work together and share the floor,” Coleman said.
The sophomore class has a lot of potential that East hopes to tap into this winter.
Sarah Rainwater saw a lot of action as a freshman and will see a lot more in her second season.
Rainwater will be looked to as a scorer. Coleman believes that at this point in the season, Rainwater is passing up opportunities that she should exploit and part of her development will be to start to create more and look to attack the basket.
“I keep reminding myself that she’s just a sophomore, but she’s working on it,” Coleman said.
Emily Hatfield, Haley Day and Savannah Carr will also see playing time.
East Jessamine has two new players to the program — both of whom are freshmen.
Kelnisha Castille broke into East Jessamine circles last spring when she competed at the state track and field championships as an eighth-grader. Coleman said Castille is a very “raw” athlete whom she looks forward to developing over the next few years.
Emma Young, a transfer from Garrard County, is “one of the better freshmen” that Coleman has seen.
“She’s going to be a big help to this team, I think,” she said.
As “painful” as last season was for East Jessamine, Coleman sees it as one of East’s strengths heading into this winter. A lot of the players that will see significant time this year played the bulk of last season.
“Now I think they’re going to understand that they grew a lot more than most teams did last year — even though it didn’t look like it,” Coleman said.
The Lady Jags have turned into a very aggressive team — one of the most aggressive that Coleman has coached.
“It’s because they’ve grown beyond keeping their head above water,” she said.
One of East’s biggest obstacles will be learning how to compete and how to win together.
The Lady Jags are going to pick up the pace of the game this year and get after teams. Last year East would wait to see what other teams do and react; this year it will be the aggressor and force the other team to react.
East Jessamine opens the season Friday at Campbellsville at 7:30 p.m. A 53-46 victory over the Lady Eagles was one of East’s few wins last year.