By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
GOOD HOPE —
Everyone knows the expression “third time’s a charm.”
For coach Michael Oldacre, he hopes the upcoming season won’t be an exception to the rule.
The Good Hope girls’ basketball team entered Monday’s first day of practice for the 2012 season coming off back-to-back record-setting campaigns.
The Raiders broke the school record for wins with 30 in 2011 and then broke it again with 33 victories this past season. They made it to the state tournament both of those years, ultimately losing their first game in each instance.
This season, however, is likely to be a bit more challenging for Good Hope.
“We lost four seniors and three starters off of last year’s team,” Oldacre said. “Three of those were career 1,000-point scorers for us.”
Gone from last year’s roster is All-State point guard Nina Mills, whose ability to create off the dribble will be sorely missed by the Raiders this season.
“Nina was able to penetrate against anybody and create our offense,” Oldacre said. “This year, we will have play bigger and be stronger on the boards. I also think we will have a good defensive team as well.”
Good Hope will also be without Kayla Elrod, Cierra Jenkins and Sierra Kinser, all key contributors on last year’s team.
“We lost a lot, but we also have five seniors and good experience coming back,” the coach said. “We are going to have to have some other players step up, and I think they can.”
One of those athletes is expected to be senior Kayla Tillman, a guard who earned All-Tournament honors in Birmingham last year and has more than 1,500 career points entering her final season.
Despite what was lost, Tillman still expects to win.
“I think we are going to be good,” said Tillman, an All-State Second Team selection in 2011. “Losing Nina, among others, will hurt, but I have a strong belief in this year’s team, and I think we are going to be all right.”
Tillman is one of five seniors returning for the Raiders. She added the experience that she and her teammates have gained over the past two seasons will be beneficial once competition begins in early November.
“We have a lot of pressure on us to do well this year,” she said. “But we’ve been there before, and we know what to expect again, so I think we will be able to handle any situation that comes at us.”
Joining Tillman will be seniors Darcy Wilson, Cara Goodwin, Savannah Fendley and Kami Calvert.
Katelyn Bishop, Kayla Scott, Kacy Thomas and Alannah Henke are also expected to play bigger roles.
“Each year brings a different set of challenges,” Oldacre said. “The main thing we have to do this year is figure out how to put the current personnel we have in the right situations to succeed. We have to be able to get the most out of what we have, and I think we are going to be able to do that.”
Not only will Oldacre have to deal with personnel changes, but he will also be tasked with a tougher schedule due to a reclassification of his team from Class 4A to 3A.
“I think that moving classes is going to make it a lot tougher for us this year,” he said. “We already have a difficult schedule, so having to potentially play teams like Madison Academy and Lauderdale County down the road won’t make it any easier.”
Despite the challenges ahead of them, the Raiders remain confident and focused.
“We want to break the record again,” Wilson said. “Our main goal is to make it back to state. All we have to do now is find our groove.”
The leadership is there, the players are there and the desire is there. For Oldacre, he hopes this will be the year Good Hope finally breaks through for a championship.
“I think when you combine great athletes and good work ethic, you can do well and have a lot of success,” he said. “The coaches and I want them to be able to accomplish all of their goals, and I think we have the potential to do it.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.