Expectations are High for Lady Tigers in 2023-24 Season

As practice started Monday for Girls’ Basketball in West Virginia, CRHS Girls Basketball Coach Kristina Gore was all smiles, “I was really proud of our energy and enthusiasm throughout the entire practice.  We were able to dive right into some concepts and schemes that in past years we wouldn’t be ready for until week two.” Gore’s Lady Tigers return a strong nucleus of experienced players and she knows – along with the players – what the goal is for this season, “For us, the next step is getting to the state tournament and playing for a title on March 9th. Despite not having the experience of being there, we believe we have the team that can win it all.”

For Gore, this season has been the culmination of a process that started when she got the job during the 2020-21 school year, “It has definitely been a process. We had our parent meeting last night, and I wanted to recap some long-term goals that we laid out at the beginning of year one. I feel like the process of working to achieve those goals has played a major role in where we are.” Gore and the Lady Tigers do a lot of in-season and out of season activities together, “The first goal we set was to provide unique opportunities for our kids to make memories while playing this game. We love to travel with our kids. We take trips with them every year during the regular season and off-season. It goes a long way toward team bonding, and just in general makes this team something that kids want to be a part of.”

That’s not everything Gore and the Lady Tigers have been able to accomplish though, “Secondly, we wanted to get our alumni involved to help generate excitement around the program. We bring them back to recognize them for their past contributions and accomplishments. We’ve been fortunate to have numerous former players help out in different ways. Concession stand, guest speakers, camps, youth leagues, financial support.. our alumni have stepped up to the plate to help us be a success.”

“The third goal was to increase attendance at our games and bolster our community support.  In the past, we didn’t even pull out both sets of bleachers for girls’ home games. Our first year we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for COVID. From year 2 to now, we need both sets out. Our staff is really aggressive with marketing our program on social media.”

But with all the important goals for Gore’s program, she understands that the players are the ones that help make everything work together, “While (all those goals) definitely help, the main draw is the product on the floor. Our players are fun to watch. We play a fun brand of basketball.”

The Lady Tigers return their entire starting five from last season and a majority of their overall roster from a team that won its first sectional title since 2019, and just missed out on going to the state tournament after losing to Wyoming East in the Co-Regional Championship.

Some of the key players returning for the Lady Tigers include Alaira Evans, Jaiden Mahon, Haley Fleming, Brooke Christian, Daizi Farley, Jaycee Blair, and Chloe Thompson.

Senior Alaira Evans, who had 19 points in the Sectional Championship win at Mingo Central last year, is expected to continue her high level of play. Coach Gore knows the next level is waiting on Evans, but her focus is this season, “Alaira has multiple college offers that she’s weighing right now, but her main focus is on what this team can accomplish this year.” Gore says Evans knows her role very well, “(Alaira) knows that her individual success will come with the team’s success. She’s got a great group of players around her that are all threats to score, so it’s to her advantage that teams can’t focus solely on her. She came back home with the goal of winning a title, and she hasn’t stopped working toward it.”

Senior Jaiden Mahon is another player that is primed for a big season according to Gore, “Jaiden has worked harder this off-season than she ever has before. She knows this is her last run at it and doesn’t want anything less than a title. Her offensive production last year was a little lower than expected, but I look for that to increase this season.”

Junior Point Guard Haley Fleming has a chance to have a breakout season as well, “I think you’re going to see a much more mature and confident point guard in Haley Fleming this season,” Gore stated. “She showed a lot of guts against Wyoming East in the regional game last year and did very well against their relentless pressure. She’s continued to work on her jump shot and it showed yesterday in practice. Having her knocking down shots from the outside consistently makes us a much more difficult team to guard.”

Junior Brooke Christian also continues to improve her game and be a force for Coach Gore’s team, “Brooke Christian is back and primed for a great year. She has got to be the most improved player we’ve had from her freshman year to now. The growth in her game on both ends has been tremendous. She’s worked herself into becoming a knock down shooter. She’s also gotten quicker defensively.  She deserves a lot of credit for our strong defensive effort against Mingo Central in last year’s sectional title game. She kept pressure on the ball and really helped keep their offense out of rhythm by doing so.”

Sophomore Jaycee Blair came on strong as a freshman for the Lady Tigers, and Gore expects her to continue to improve, “Jaycee Blair stepped up huge for us in the second half of the season last year. I’m excited for her to be able to come in as a sophomore with the experience she got last year as a freshman under her belt. She’s extremely aggressive on both ends and is also a legitimate threat from the outside. You know when she’s on the floor she’s going to give you everything she has, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach. She’s a special player for us.”

Senior Chloe Thompson adds another matchup problem for the Lady Tigers as well according to Gore, “Chloe Thompson is back for her final season, as well. She’s capable of doing a little bit of everything for us. We’re at our best when she’s flying around out there using her length to deflect passes and block shots. I’d really like to see her attack the offensive glass the way she did yesterday in our scrimmage. She can be a real difference maker by getting some easy second chance points for us that we haven’t been getting in the past. She also shot 100% from three last year, making both of her attempts. She’s got to be willing to let it fly when she gets her opportunities.”

Junior Daizi Farley is another guard and sharpshooter from the outside that is back to help the Lady Tigers, “Having Daizi Farley back at Chapmanville adds another scoring threat, some needed depth, and a secondary ball handler for us.” 

Gore says she’s got more capable players, and is looking for them to step up heading into the beginning of the season, “I’m looking for a couple more players to step up into bigger roles. We need to be able to have 8 or 9 that can go out there and get the job done, especially at the guard position…Senior Riley Lucas played a big role for us in her freshman season. I would like to be able to call upon her to give us some minutes each night. Hannah Miller and Makayla Parsons are two other guards that could step into more playing time. Both are strong defensive players.”

Coach Gore has beefed up the Tigers’ schedule this year, by design, “We are loaded with teams that played in the state tournament last year, and some who were one win away, just like us.  That’s by design so that we don’t get ourselves into the habit of playing sloppy and still being able to win.”

Gore was also proud of the way her team conditioned during the offseason to prepare for this basketball season, “Our staff works extremely hard to provide our kids opportunities to better themselves. My husband started the cross-country program back up here, and we had six basketball players take advantage of that opportunity.  Those six are in the best shape of their lives and have learned how to ’embrace the suck’ of conditioning. Running doesn’t bother them now. It’s been a gamechanger for those kids. Two of them actually ran a half marathon the day before tryouts.”

Coach Gore was also very complimentary to her assistant coaches as well, “Coach Aldridge did a tremendous job running a conditioning program for the other kids not running XC or playing volleyball. The players who took advantage of those opportunities really stood out yesterday throughout practice, and especially when we scrimmaged.”

Gore knows that there’s a lot of pressure this year, but that pressure is a good thing and that her squad is ready for the challenge, “It’s a privilege because we have another opportunity this season to make some big-time noise in the postseason, which hasn’t happened often in our program’s history. The last time we were at the state tournament, I was in the stands watching two of my assistant coaches play. The few times before that, in the 90’s, none of our current players were alive. The opportunity is also there to continue to grow the support that’s been building in our community over the past three years. I love the high expectations. It’s what I knew we would eventually get to, especially with this veteran group.”

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