Special to the Grove Sun
KANSAS - Considering the fact that they swept Jay’s Tri-State Tournament, the prestigious Oklahoma’s Best in Tulsa and the eventual State 3A Championship, it would be hard to duplicate all of the success enjoyed by the Kansas Lady Comets last season.
Harder still when one takes into account that they lost a pair of big talented seniors, Kortni Kendrick and Brooke Panther, to graduation. But no one in Comet Nation is making any excuses. One look at the Kansas girls roster and there’s really no need to.
After all, they’re returning Kelsey Barnwell and Courtney Cowan for their junior seasons. Barnwell, who in addition to being a defensive terror and a ball handler extraordinaire, is a consistent leader in the scoring, steal and assist categories. Cowan, who was named MVP of the Oklahoma’s Best and the 3A State Tournaments, is an equally deft ball handler with the ability to score from both inside and outside the arc. And when the two talented 11th graders start to hit there stride, they can devastate an opponent.
Looking to complement the starting lineup are Brittney Nipps and Haley Blackwood, who were named to last season’s Afton’s Coca Cola Classic’s All-Tournament team.
Joining the new look Kansas ladies is Taylor Proctor. Proctor was a mainstay on her junior high team and looks to have the inside track for a starting nod. After suffering a season ending injury last year, Keeley Kerns returns to the fold with a good amount of playing time to her resume.
Of course, perhaps the biggest question surrounding this year’s squad is who will take over the post position. Sophomore Heather Marshall looks to be the heir apparent to fill some mighty big shoes inside the Kansas middle. But the 6-2 Marshall, who was used almost exclusively off of the bench last season, will need to develop a thick skin to fend off the ‘slings and arrows’ of opposing fans and defenders. Backing up Marshall is Barb Helton who is a state champion power lifter that brings a wealth of strength, but not a lot of experience, to the inside.
The Lady Comets close out November with a tough road game in Keys, followed by a December 2 date against an experienced Lincoln, Arkansas squad. As always, Adair, Salina and Westville lurk in the wings with both the motivations and the talent to give Kansas all the competition they want. Add to this their simultaneous participation in Afton’s Coca Cola Classic and this year’s Best of the Best Tournament at Tulsa University’s Reynolds Center and Kansas will not get the opportunity to rest on their laurels.
Head Coach Steve Odle is circumspect regarding his team saying, “We’ve got a good nucleus of a team this year. We’re fortunate to have some experience in our favor, but our success will have a lot to do with how well our newer players step up.”
Given the Lady Comets’ recent history however, it’s not a stretch for Comet Nation to make their hotel reservations early for the State Tournament in Oklahoma City.