Lady Bucs ready for action in 2021-22 season

The 2021-2022 B-UHS girls’ basketball team and coaches. DALTON WRIGHT /The Record Delta.

TENNERTON — The Buckhannon-Upshur High School Lady Bucs basketball team saw their first action of the season when they hosted a scrim-mage against Tucker County on Monday evening. All the Lady Bucs, both on the varsity and junior varsity level got to see the floor in the scrimmage, offering us a glimpse at what they have in store this season. Overall, the Lady Bucs looked strong in their first outing of the 2021-22 season, often overwhelming the opposition with their smothering defense, causing turnovers, and converting them into points. This scrimmage was an invaluable learning experience and simulta-neously allowed the team to build up some positive momentum as they turn their attention to the fast-approaching regular season. As head coach Rob Kittle enters his fourth year at the helm of the Buckhannon-Upshur Lady Bucs’ basketball program to start the 2020-21 season, he looks to have an experienced team that might prove to be his best yet. Kittle has not recorded a losing season in his time as a head coach at B-UHS—something he hopes continues this season. Despite his consistent success, a trip to the state tournament has eluded Kittle thus far, a fact which can largely be attributed to B-UHS competing in possibly the tough-est region in AAAA basketball, which consists of perennial contenders such as: Wheeling Park, Morgantown, Bridgeport, and University. Coach Kittle feels that this team has the talent and mindset to accomplish big things this season—possibly even winning the region outright, securing a berth in the state tournament. He referred to his team as the best he has had in his time at B-UHS, adding, “I found myself looking forward to coaching this team all year.” Kittle has enjoyed being able to spend more time with this group of girls in the preseason this year after having his preparation for last season rushed following its postponement for nearly two months. He said, “This year, it has been refreshing to get back to some sense of normalcy. We have had more time to get work in and prepare for the season, right now it seems that all the girls are buying in and accepting their roles. They have been a joy to be around and coach.” The Lady Bucs play a defen-sive-oriented brand of basketball, aiming to generate pressure, cause turnovers, and then turn them into easy buckets on the other end. “I think that the iden-tity of our team is our defense. Defensively, we play with great effort, and I think we will be able to use our length to push opposing teams out of rhythm offensively. I expect for us to create a lot of havoc on defense. I challenged my girls to aim to cause 20 turnovers a game,” Coach Kit-tle elaborated. Schematically, defensively the Lady Bucs will largely remain the same; keying in on playing tough, aggressive, physical defense, but offensively will look to space the floor more this year. He added, “I think that this team has all the pieces to be my best outside shooting team. We have four girls that can really light it up shooting the ball.” A lack of depth and consis-tency off the bench was an issue for the Lady Bucs last season, but they look to be in much better shape in that respect this season. Kittle says he hopes to go with ei-ther an 8 or 9 player rotation. The coach expanded on what bench play could mean for his team and stated, “If we can develop some bench depth behind our strong starting five, I think we will be a very dangerous team that will be competing to make it back to Charleston down the stretch.” The Lady Bucs will have to replace the production of two pivotal pieces this season from last year’s squad—graduating seniors McKenzie Reynolds and Kennedy Samargo. To fill the holes left by key departures, Kittle will lean more on do-it-all combo guard Shelby McDaniels and an experienced cast of com-plementary pieces this season. Any potential success this season will center around Mc-Daniels. A two-time Second Team All-State selection as a sophomore and junior, McDan-iels looks to elevate her game and team to new heights this year. Last season, McDaniels led the team offensively by scoring 16 points per game. When asked about McDaniels, Kittle lit up before pouring praise on the senior guard, stating, “Shelby is our team’s heartbeat and un-questioned leader. That is plain to see if you watch her impact on the team when she steps on the floor. She is a vocal leader who lifts her teammates up and generally sets a great example for the other girls in our program. I expect big things out of her this season.” The Lady Bucs have five players coming back who played key roles last season. A pair of sophomore guards, Gabby Parke and Kenna Maxwell will join McDaniels to round out the Lady Bucs’ three-guard starting backcourt. Kittle expects both Parke and Maxwell to be valu-able contributors this year, while focusing on developing their respective games to build upon strong freshman seasons last year. When asked about his two sophomore standouts, Coach Kittle stated, “I think that all the in-game experience they logged as freshman will serve them well this season. It is obvious that they have adjusted to the speed of the game entering this sea-son, which is typical for young players adapting to a new level of competition. Both have made jumps in terms of playmaking; they are seeing the floor better and have a better grasp on what we are trying to do offensively.” The Lady Bucs’ starting frontcourt will feature junior Kendal Currence and senior Kierra Woods. Currence was a strong presence in the post last season, pulling down over 8 rebounds a game to lead the team. Woods, who played in only nine games last year due to injury, averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds a game, in limited action. The Lady Bucs bench will be led by senior Olivia Ellis and sophomore Kyndal Davis, both of whom saw limited varsity minutes last season. These two will be joined by a couple of incoming freshmen who have the talent to contribute on the varsity level immediately. The Lady Bucs have high hopes this year and fitting-ly scheduled non-conference games that will pit them against some of the best teams from around the state. Coach Kittle constructed this season sched-ule, in hopes of best preparing his team for postseason play. The Lady Bucs non-conference slate is full of tough games and notably features games against Martinsburg, Musselman, and Parkersburg South. The Big 10 Conference once again is strong from top to bottom, with teams such as Fairmont Senior, North Marion, as well as rivals Elkins, Philip Barbour, and Lewis Coun-ty. “I told my team that they will be tested this season. I believe that being tested is the only way that we can get better as a team. If we want to achieve big things at the end of the season, we have to push ourselves mentally and physically,” he expressed. It is clear that Kittle and the Lady Bucs’ basketball program have a lot to look forward to this season, which will tip-off December 7 when they travel to play Preston in their first regular season game. Only time will tell if this year’s version of the Lady Bucs can live up to lofty expectations, but on paper, they look promising.

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