Lady Knights basketball boasts roster full of potential

PRUNTYTOWN— Tryouts for the Taylor County Middle School Lady Knights Basketball program concluded earlier this month. 

With a roster boasting fresh new talent and only limited number of returning leaders, Head Coach Bobby Beltner, along with his assistants, Eric Smith, Jaron Freeman, Richard Jones and Kelley Larew, has been diligently working to prepare his team for the season ahead. 

This season, Beltner added eight sixth grade players to the program, noting that these younger players and the JV program are essential to the program’s long-term success.

“Our younger players are an important part of our program. It is important to have kids coming back each year, learning what is expected of them early on and building off of it each season. It also means we don’t have to start over each year,” he voiced. 

While the team will see several familiar faces on the court, Beltner revealed that he only has one returning starter, eighth grade varsity member Kenna Keener. 

“We are going to have to rely on Keener a lot,” he shared. “Her confidence has really improved, and she can get to the basket and score.”

Another member, that is sure to be a scoring sensation for the Lady Knights is newcomer Natalie Beltner. 

Although this is her first season on the team, N. Beltner trained hard in the off-season to earn her place as a Lady Knight and is capable of running floor for fast break opportunities on the defensive rebound, beating her opponents in transition and getting in position for an easy basket. 

“Natalie, as a sixth grader, has really stepped up and will be an important part of our varsity team this year,” Coach Beltner disclosed. 

When it comes to inside play, the Lady Knights are looking strong on the block with returning post players Alyssa Jackson and Kaylie Cross. 

“Alyssa has gotten a lot taller since last year, and had a great attitude,” Beltner commented. “I look forward to seeing her contribution this year.” 

Cross is also capable of running the floor and making big plays. She is a force to be reckoned with on defense, as she is not afraid to strong arm her opponent to box out for the rebound, giving her team valuable second chance opportunities. 

“Kaylie is a smooth inside player,” added Beltner. 

In addition, the varsity group will be looking to Maddie Fryer to make a big impact on the court this season. 

“Maddie is making great strides. If she continues to work, she will really be able to help the varsity team,” Beltner voiced. 

He went on to share that he was anticipating getting a lot of post work from eighth grader Ashlynee Bolyard. Unfortunately, Bolyard suffered an injury on the first day of practice and will be forced to sit out for the beginning of the season. 

“She broke her ankle on day one of practice,” revealed Beltner. “Hopefully she can heal and get back sometime after the first of the year.” 

When it comes to game play, Beltner is hoping to see some improvement at the charity stripe this season. 

The Lady Knights found struggles at the free throw line all season long last year, shooting only around 18 percent on the season, a costly number in close contests. 

“Obviously we have to improve on our free throw shooting,” he said. 

Coach Beltner also shared that he hopes to see more consistent and aggressive defensive efforts from his team than he has in the past, saying that playing a better defense will be key to a winning season, and is something the team has really been focusing on during practice. 

And for the first time, the TCMS Lady Knights will host a varsity tournament as the conclusion of the regular season. 

This is something Coach Beltner and TCMS Athletic Director Allan DePiano organized for both the boys and girls varsity teams, as a fun and rewarding way to end the season. 

The tournament is slated for mid-February and will see teams from Kasson, Belington and Philippi take part. 

And while the team’s 17 game schedule, in conjunction with the inaugural tournament, is no easy feat, Beltner believes that the current pandemic may still prove to be their biggest challenge ahead. 

“Just trying to keep everyone on the court and out of quarantine will be challenge enough for us,” he stated. 

Despite the challenges that may be in store for this group, Beltner will continue to keep the ladies focused, working toward his goal of seeing them all improve as players. 

“I want the kids to get better every day,” he voiced. “I want them to be better today than they were yesterday, and better tomorrow than they were today. This team’s work ethic and potential, especially the younger group, is fun to watch. They get better every single practice.” 

The Lady Knights will tip off their season with a varsity only matchup on the road at Bruceton Middle on Friday, December 3 at 5:45 p.m.

© 2021-Mountain Statesman


More In Sports