A lot more than the season is new for the Kenton Ridge and Southeastern girls basketball teams — new coaches, new players in important roles and new offensive and defensive strategies.
But one factor isn’t new for Kenton Ridge. Her name is Mikala Morris.
“Aren’t you a senior yet?” Southeastern head coach Bob Wehner said with a smile to Morris in the hallway after Friday’s game. Morris smiled back: “Not yet.”
Morris is the Cougars’ 6-foot-2 junior center who has been a dominant rebounder, defensive blockade in the lane and one of her team’s top scorers the past two years. She scored 32 points and led the Cougars to a season-opening 65-38 victory over Southeastern.
“I’m just doing what needs to be done and I’m trying to show leadership and bringing positive energy to the team,” Morris said. “Just helping the younger girls out is my goal.”
What’s new for Morris is that she is the primary focus of the offense after the graduation of Jamari McDavid, her rebounding and inside scoring partner the past two seasons. Morris said she worked all summer to improve her ballhandling and shooting. She displayed some of the skills Friday by bringing the ball up the floor a few times and shooting more jump shots.
“She competes really hard, and if we can get her a touch every single possession we feel like we’ll get a great shot,” McCurdy said, “because every other team’s double- and triple-teaming her and she sees the floor so well.”
Morris was a factor inside as the Cougars built a 24-7 lead in the first quarter. Senior guard Desiree Jones, who finished with 13 points, hit some early jumpers to help build the lead.
KR coach Matt McCurdy is coaching girls for the first time after short stints as the boys coach at Triad and Ben Logan. He wants his young team to start doing the little things better, like blocking out for rebounds and cutting down on turnovers.
“We competed well in spurts, and Southeastern came out and competed really well,” McCurdy said. “The times when we got in lulls they did a good job of taking advantage of it. We’ve just got to start doing the little things.”
McCurdy is encouraged by the camaraderie he has witnessed since he got to know his team during the 10 practice days in the summer.
“They’ve bought into the team mentality,” he said. “They’re pretty unselfish out there, and they move the basketball well.”
Wehner comes to Southeastern with 17 years of coaching experience on the staff at Jonathan Alder, including the past three years as head coach. He has a young team with three sophomore starters and a junior starter. Avery Shepherd, the Trojans’ sophomore point guard, made four 3-pointers and scored a team-high 13 points.
“We’re super young and have a lot of inexperience, and it showed,” Wehner said. “We’ll get better as the year goes along.”
The Trojans got better as Friday’s game progressed, which was also the team’s habit in scrimmages.
“We’ve got some talent,” Wehner said. “We’ve just got to learn how to play.”
Like McCurdy, Wehner wants to see his team improve at little things like blocking out for rebounds, making crisper passes and moving better on offense.
“They want to learn,” Wehner said. “I like that.”