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December 24, 2013

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Oldacre, Raiders keep on winning despite new faces

Having to replace five experienced seniors on your squad — four of whom were seasoned contributors as starters — isn’t the easiest task for many basketball coaches to accomplish.

Unfortunately for Michael Oldacre, that was the unenviable position the longtime Good Hope girls coach found himself in when he and his team finally stepped onto the court for their first practice of the still-young season.

Gone were Kayla Tillman, Cara Goodwin, Darcie Wilson, Kami Calvert and Savannah Fendley, replaced with Katelyn Bishop — the Raiders’ lone returning starter from last year — Kayla Scott and Kacy Thomas. Those three players, along with Sierra Kinser, were the only ones who had varsity experience under their belts entering the season.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “We had all these new faces and new roles to fill. I thought we might have good guard play, but I wasn’t sure about the post, though.”

The Red and White struggled out the gate, dropping three of their first four contests — all by double digits — before finally finding their footing as of late.

Following a 33-27 defeat to Class 4A Madison County, Good Hope has reeled off seven straight wins, including four over county-rivals Vinemont, West Point, Hanceville and Fairview. It will head into Thursday’s Hayden Christmas Tournament with a 10-4 record and a wealth of momentum that was absent early on in November.

“We didn’t play well to start out, but I feel like we are getting there,” Oldacre said. “Those girls that graduated had played on the same team for long time. They knew how to play together. It takes a while to get used to that, but we are slowly learning how to do it.”

It certainly helps the cause when the players taking over the new roles on the team aren’t too shabby themselves.

Bishop, Thomas and Scott have contributed most of the production and leadership so far, while Celeste Whisenant, Kaylee Maddox, Kinser, Celina Dillard and Alex Flanigan have all provided contributions for the team as well.

While the Raiders’ relied heavily on Tillman’s scoring in 2012, the onus for points now lies with several who, not long ago, were merely considered role players.

“Sometimes we’ll have three, maybe four, players with 10 or more points,” Oldacre said. “I like that. I’m pleased with that. Our attitude has been great. They don’t care about points. All they want are wins. I couldn’t ask for a better group of good teammates and competitors.”

Good Hope has won its games in a variety of ways. Some were close, others weren’t. Some were won on the defensive end of the court, while others called for some clutch buckets.

In the middle of all its wins, however, was Bishop — a senior who’s now come into her own and ready to show the rest of the county schools what her team is all about.

“It’s been difficult having to fill those spots the seniors left, but we are starting to get good,” she said. “I think we’re well-rounded as players. Coach always wants us to get to 10 wins before Christmas, and we did that. We want to keep it going.”

Bishop and Co. will battle Guntersville Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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