Pikeville once again comes into the pre-season as the heavy favorites to repeat on both the Boys and Girls side. Lets take a deeper look to see why so many share this opinion.
The Pikeville Lady Panthers are looking to make it 4 consecutive regional titles. Since Kristy Orem has arrived in Pikeville the Lady Panthers have been to the regional championship game 5 of her 6 years. Last season, Pikeville went 31-3 losing in the opening round of the sweet sixteen to Cooper.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING – The Lady Panthers return their three top scorers from a year ago. If you are discussing Lady Panther basketball it all starts with their point guard, Trinity Rowe. Rowe controls the tempo of the game all while leading her team. She led the team in scoring at just under 16 points per game. She really worked hard last season to improve her 3 point percentage. She did just that and shot an impressive 48.7% last season. Rowe had already picked up a number of college offers as she enters her junior season.
If one outstanding junior isn’t enough enter Junior Kyera Thornsbury. Thornsbury is a high motor, athletic kid who brings a slasher to the Pikeville lineup. Thornsbury missed the first 16 games of the season waiting to be ruled eligible after transferring. After she was ruled eligible, she averaged 11.3 points per game in the final 18 games.
Enter the third outstanding Junior in Rylee Theiss. Theiss averaged 9.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Theiss can score inside or attack the rim from the perimeter. She serves as an excellent combination to Rowe and Thornsbury.
Depth is not an issue for the Lady Panthers as they return Junior Kristen Whited at 7.3 PPG, and sensational Sophomore Leighan Jackson at 5.3 points per game.
The Lady Panthers might have received the biggest transfer of the off season. Jenna Sparks transferred from Belfry to Pikeville during the summer. For the Pirates last season, Sparks averaged 9 point and 10 rebounds per game. We look for her to mesh nicely with this Lady Panther group.
KEY LOSSES – The Lady Panthers did lose two senior to last years squad. Sharp Shooting guard/forward Emma Ratliff averaged 8.2 points per game on nearly 41% from behind the arc. The second graduating senior was Kylie Hall. Hall, a bruising force inside scored 3.9 points per game while grabbing over 4 rebounds.
FINAL THOUGHTS – They have depth, they have speed, they have athleticism that’s why they are the favorite to win the region once again. It will take a team playing their best basketball to beat these Lady Panthers.
It would be hard to believe after graduating the senior class they did last year that any team would be back in contention but most teams are not Pikeville. Pikeville finished the season 32-3 last season, winning the ALL A State Tournament and making it to the elite 8 in the Sweet Sixteen prior to losing to eventual state champions George Rogers Clark.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING – The leading pre-season candidate for D&D Sports Player of the Year, Rylee Samons averaged 15.4 points per game last season. Samons shot nearly 52% from the field and nearly 46% from behind the arc.
Junior sharpshooter Heath Jarrell will see an increase in minutes this season. Jarrell averaged 5.4 point per game last season. Junior Charlie Fitzer will move into the middle for the Panthers. Fitzer has the size and athleticism to make a huge impact for the Panthers.
Pikeville also has several other weapons such as Ian Onkst, a long athletic sophomore who can play multiple positions on the floor. Josh Hughes is a Junior guard who can really fill it up, after the Summer he had we fully expect him to be one of the Panthers top 3 scorers. We can’t forget about “Big Man” EB Walters, a kid that brings energy to the court. Walters will be that physical post that Coach Elisha Justice uses to change the pace when center Charlie Fitzer comes off the floor.
Finally, enter transfer guard Eli Johnson. Johnson played last season at Menifee County where he led the team in scoring at 22.3 point per game. Look for him to have a huge year playing for Coach Elisha Justice.
KEY LOSSES – The Panthers lost 6 seniors off of last years squad. Keian Worrix was the star of the Sweet Sixteen last season. The ‘”Baby Faced Assassin” won the D&D Sports Player of the Year award. Worrix led the offense all while averaged 11.2 points per game last season, 4th on the team.
In the middle, Nick Robinson had his best season. Robinson averaged 13.2 points per game while shooting an amazing 73.7% from the floor. Robinson also led the team in rebounding with 7.6 rebounds per game.
The defensive stopper for the Panthers a season ago was the “Blonde Bomber” Laithan Hall. Hall averaged 11.4 point per game by shooting an impressive 41.1% from behind the arc.
Add in the losses of key players, Tate Walters (5.5 PPG) Lukas Manns (3.3 PPG) , and Alex Rogers (3.6 PPG).
FINAL THOUGHTS – If any other team lost six seniors, four of which were starters, they could never be considered the favorite. Well, every other team is not Pikeville.