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ALBRIGHT: Calhoun County girls basketball can run it back in 2022

One year ago, the 2020 Calhoun County girl’s basketball team constructed a convincing argument to be the best in the history of the program.

It didn’t take long for another group to come along and eclipse them.

Take a bow, 2021 Red Devils.

By running all the way to the state semifinals, they became the first team (boys or girls) to win a game at the state tournament. Sure, Cameron cut that stay short during the very next contest, but the overall compilation of work screamed a success – a 14-5 record, with a sectional and regional championship undoubtedly is something worth writing home about.

See head coach Kevin Boak’s thoughts.

“I am pretty happy with the ways things turned out,” he said.

As he should be, but he could possibly be even happier.

For as much they accomplished, it came thanks to a team featuring just one senior. So the opportunity to run everything back and take another crack at breaking their established mark stays alive.

Is this going to be easy?

No.

Sectionwise, absolutely no one knows what Gilmer County’s response will be to so much late-season misfortune. Having said that, barring any more bad news, the Titans should be at full strength with their starting five. Remember, Gilmer held the top ranking in Class A most of the season in 2020.

“In some aspects I still think they are our biggest competition, not just on our side of the Little Kanawha Conference but in sectional play too. Amy always is going to have those girls ready to play, no matter what,” Boak said.

Precisely.

Statewise, Tug Valley loses two of its top players in Alyssa Newsome and Makayla May, but still employs a determined head coach and top player in Clyde Farley and Kaylea Baisden, each of whom likely wants to seize the opportunity to win the program’s second state title.

Then, there is Cameron.

While Lili McNeely graduates, the Dragons’ Ashlynn Van Tassell, who caused many problems for the Red Devils in that semifinal, returns alongside defensive stalwart Kenzie Clutter.

Those last two only really matter on a statewide level.

Again, though, the Red Devils have several big-time weapons back.

In fact, the amount of talent returning and aiming at pushing the Red Devils higher reads as a smorgasbord for a small Class A school. Not many schools can do much better than returning their top three scorers in Josie Montgomery, Savannah Cunningham and Jocelynn Yeager.

“I look for Yeager to have a big year next year. She will be a key factor in how far we can go,” Boak said of his rebounding big who at times held her own against Van Tassell as only a sophomore.

If that isn’t enough, the jump Cunningham made between her sophomore and junior season and the jump she made again later this season should be enough to scare people. Not only did she decide to start scoring more, but she took it to the basket and at some points dominated games as the difference maker on both ends.

And if she is consistently doing that, then that frees up Montgomery to create havoc. A lot of havoc, in fact. As she can do just about everything Cunningham can, and stands taller it is quite a bit tougher to slow her down. Not that it can’t be done, but when everything clicks, preparation becomes a nightmare.

Also, between the three of them, the Red Devils get their three best defensive players back to a unit that allowed 60 points or more in just four games, and 70 just once.

How can someone not be happy to have all that back?

Heck, it is possible there could be a few surprises from other returning players, too.

“I have a few girls, non-starters, who have already told me that are going to work out a little harder in the offseason. And that is a big plus,” Boak said.

Indeed.

Every extra person an opponent needs to prepare for means more scoring opportunities for the Big Three. Add in a few taller kids coming up from the middle school level, and Boak has more options than just four guards and a big out on the floor at all times.

It is a really good time to be at Calhoun County.

Especially as Boak is confident his girls won’t miss this opportunity before them.

“I won’t be shocked,” he said on the Red Devils making a return to Charleston. “I would say there is a good chance. The girls have got to want it. This is not a gimmie, it is never a gimmie. They are only going to get there if they work hard.

“I expect to build on last season. With us being a smarter basketball team and knowing what to do in high pressure situations, that really got the monkey off of our back.”

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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