Graduation cleaned the storehouse for Bland County’s Bears and coach Jason Lambert enters his 13th season at the helm looking for luck and not that of the bad variety. His link to success this season may well ride on the backs of only three returning players that have varsity experience.
Lambert entered the season that began this past Monday at home versus Narrows with a roster of 12 players, eight of the 12 being sophomores and freshmen. The top returnees are seniors Emily Ratliff and Sydnee Moses.
Ratliff, with a team-best 31 treys, averaged 10.1 points and three rebounds per game as a junior while Moses scored five points a game and grabbed five rebounds. Ratliff was also named first team All-MED and received the player of the year award given by the Bland County Messenger.
Junior Sydnie Stowers also returns and is joined on the roster by fellow junior transfer Adriauna Strock, sophomores Emma Townley, Kayla Mutter, Victoria Irwin, Emma Rasnake, and Mary Walker, and freshmen Kaitlin Hall, Cheyenne Holston, and Randi Dillow. Strock just recently enrolled at Bland County while most of the others are up from JV. Irwin saw her JV season end early due to injury while Dillow played middle school in 2017 but not JV.
“Improving every day is our first goal of the year,” Lambert said. “With the lack of varsity experience, we’ve had to work on the speed, aggressiveness, and fundamentals that you must have at this level. They’ve worked hard and I can see improvements.”
Lambert must also replace six players lost to graduation that were all very instrumental to his team over the past few years. Gone are post players Sydney Walker and Emma Pennington as well as guards Macey Scott and Emily Parnell and forwards Lauren Gwyn and Judy Sparks.
“That’s where our lack of experience comes in,” Lambert said. “This year’s team will be very young. None of the sophomores or freshmen has played with those that are coming back.”
Lambert noted that Ratliff, Moses, and Stowers will be in his starting lineup and that he would mix and match the remaining players to find a suitable combination.
“With the speed we have, we will play a lot of pressure man to man defense which hopefully will fuel us in transition,” he said. “Experience is certainly a concern but the dedication that some of them have shown during the offseason has me excited to see where they can go. I’m sure there will be nights we will struggle but there will also be nights where their improvements shine through.”
Lambert believes that Galax and George Wythe will be the class of the MED as both return an excellent core of players.
“They are two of the top teams in Group A with both returning a big portion of their squads,” he noted. “Both have tournament experience and will be expected to compete at state level this year. The other teams in the district return more experience compared to us but I hope we grow up quickly and are able to compete.”
The Bears have a 22-game schedule this season with Honaker and Marion added to the slate. Bland County will once again compete in the Narrows Christmas Tournament before facing its first MED encounter on Dec. 18 opposite Rural Retreat on the road. Eight of the first 11 games will be played away from home.
2018-19 BC Bears girls’ basketball
Date Opponent H/A
Nov. 26 Narrows Home
Dec. 3 Honaker Home
Dec. 5 E. Montgomery Away
Dec. 6 Marion Home
Dec. 11 Narrows Away
Dec. 13 Tournament Narrows
Dec. 15 Tournament Narrows
Dec. 18 Rural Retreat Away
Dec. 19 Chilhowie Away
Dec. 21 Auburn Away
Jan. 2 Galax Away
Jan. 4 George Wythe Home
Jan. 7 E. Montgomery Home
Jan. 8 Grayson County Away
Jan. 11 Fort Chiswell Home
Jan. 16 Rural Retreat Home
Jan. 18 Fort Chiswell Away
Jan. 21 Chilhowie Home
Jan. 22 Auburn Home
Jan. 25 Galax Home
Jan. 29 George Wythe Away
Feb. 1 Grayson County Home