By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 7, 2016) — Stephenville tips off its girls basketball season against a familiar opponent Tuesday when Burnet visits Gandy Gym at 6:30 p.m.
“They have pretty good size and a pretty good team,” says Stephenville head coach Alan Thorpe, who coached two years at Burnet in between his stints at SHS. “They have a couple good post players and a couple kids who can shoot it.”
Thorpe admits he doesn’t know a lot about what Burnet will do strategically, but is focused primarily on his own team.
“They only had one scrimmage, and supposedly they played a private school Friday night, but I haven’t been able to get ahold of that film yet, so I don’t know much about them at all,” said Thorpe. “This early in the season, I’m more worried about our kids and getting them to gel and execute our offense, things like that.”
After a series of preseason scrimmages, Thorpe has been most pleased by his team’s play on the defensive end.
“Our pressure defense has been good, so that’s what I’ve liked the most so far,” he said. “We’re executing our offense pretty well, but we’re just not getting it in the hole yet, so hopefully that comes in time. But other than not shooting the ball very well, I’m pleased with this group. They have great work ethic, and as long as that’s the case, we will keep improving.”
Junior Jordan Carter has taken over at point guard. The guard spots are where Stephenville was hit the hardest by graduation with Kali Smith, Bayleigh Chaviers and Skylar Chipman all graduating.
“Jordan is doing a good job for us. She’s quiet, doesn’t really say a whole lot, but she has great work ethic and is a fast learner,” Thorpe said. “I think she’ll develop into a pretty good point guard.”
Sophomore Jayci Morton became a legitimate scoring threat as a freshman last season, and Thorpe looks forward to her becoming a major weapon.
“Jayci is boing to be a big part of everything we do. She made big strides last year after we brought her up over the Christmas break and we have big expectations for her,” Thorpe said. “Hailey Martin is another one who will be a big part of what we’re doing.”
The same can be said for Payton Wall, who started as a sophomore last season. Her and Martin are each junior guards.
“Payton is good and other girls look up to her, so I think she’ll be a good leader for us, and Katie Roberson is another one good intangible leadership skills,” Thorpe said.
The other guard on the roster is Ebony Green, who had a big game in the regional quarterfinals after moving up to the varsity late in the regular season. Post players include Emily Brandon, who along with Morton and Martin just finished a run to the area playoffs in volleyball, Liz Pack who is expected to return in the coming weeks from an ACL injury, Tess Baker and Blair Landes.
“Blair has a good shot and could be a scorer for us underneath,” said Thorpe. “We have some good size in that group, so hopefully we’ll be able to rebound well this year and post some people up inside.”
Stephenville reached the Region I-4A quarterfinals and were eliminated there by Brownwood last season. That came after winning a seventh straight area championship, all under Thorpe. He is beginning his ninth season back at Stephenville. He was head coach of the Honeybees for eight years before spending two at Burnet and two at Justin Northwest. He returned to the place he and his family call home in 2008.
“I love it here and can’t wait to get another season started,” he said. “Burnet will be a good first test. They lost in their scrimmage to Lake Travis, but Lake Travis is 6A and they’re pretty salty.”
Stephenville is home for its first three games. The Bees host Granbury next Tuesday, November 15, in the first girls-boys doubleheader of the season, with the Jackets following against Gatesville. Keller Fossil Ridge visits the Bees on Monday, November 21, before they conclude their pre-Thanksgiving slate at Jacksboro on Tuesday, November 22.
Stephenville returns from Thanksgiving to host Aledo on Tuesday, November 29, then will be in the Granbury tournament the opening weekend of December.
“Our schedule isn’t easy and I don’t ever intend for it to be,” said Thorpe. “Playing good competition makes you better, and that’s what we need if we’re going to be successful later in the year.”