BY RICK WRIGHT –
The Cossatot River Lady Eagles return four of their five starters from a year ago. Expectations are high and the time has come to make things happen on the court.
“Our senior high opens up the 25th, it will be here against Sparkman,” said Cossatot River Lady Eagle Head Coach Tyler Timms. “I’m ready and I know the kids are ready too. We’ve been working hard. I think they are excited, but there are a lot of kinks we have to work out. We’re just ready to play a game.”
The Lady Eagles are ready to play and get that first one out of the way.
“We lost two seniors to graduation last year, Kara Richardson and Hope Lyle. We’ve got a lot of our scoring and a lot of our bench back,” said Timms. “Everybody is excited about it. Kara and Hope are great kids, they were the glue to our team, just character kids, leaders. So that’s the thing that I’ve talked to this team about. We’ve got all this talent. This should be the most athletic team we’ve had. But the mental toughness and leadership are the things I’m looking for this year. That’s going to be the key to our season.”
Basketball is a whole lot more than just throwing the ball at the basket. Time after time, Kara Richardson pulled down a big rebound, or scored on a putback, or blocked someone out and Hope was so solid with the ball. “Everybody liked them, wanted to play hard for them,” said Timms. “The thing is we are no longer freshmen and sophomores, we’re juniors and seniors and they are ready to make a mark of their own.”
Point guard Raegan Richardson is what makes the Lady Eagles go. “Raegan was All State last year,” said Timms. “So was Ashlen Gonzalez and they are both back. The thing with Raegan that we’re looking for is leadership, and we’re looking for her to really want to take the games over more, impose her will on the games. There were games where she would get that, score 20 or 25 points. She’s a pass first point guard, which is great. But I am really hoping she takes another step forward. She started as a freshman for us and every year she’s taken a step forward and I’m hoping she continues to get better. She needs to take a step forward, leadership wise. Defensively, she runs the top of most of our defenses that we run. Raegan always plays hard. She and Harley Dering are going to be the two that set the tone. We’re not going to start any seniors. We’ll start two sophomores and three juniors.”
This is a team that everyone is excited about. “We won our conference the last two years,” said Timms. “Last two years we’ve gone 18-2 in conference. Both losses came against Genoa Central. I think this is the year that’s going to put us over the hump.”
“The thing I’m really preaching on is that we are athletic and talented, but I’ve had teams the last couple of years that were not as athletic or talented that I thought over achieved and I’m hoping this team does the same. So we will see.”
Ashlen Gonzalez in the paint is a difference maker. “She plays so hard, she’s got a good motor. She’s really good on the glass on offensive rebounds and put back,” said Timms. “She’s gotten so much better. She picks things up easily. She’s not somebody that’s going to get frustrated, she’s just going to be who she is. She doesn’t back down from anybody. She’s undersized but she’s athletic. Last year when she came up here she felt she had something to prove.”
“The thing we’ve set since day one with this team is Are We Hungry? I’m hoping that they are,” said Timms. “But again, I don’t just want them to be okay with just winning. If we’re playing our best game I think we should put it away early. I’ve had teams in the past that if we could find a way to win that was going to be okay. But this team has a chance to really impose their will early, and play with a chip on their shoulder.”
“We saw in the Regionals and State Tournaments last year, the kinds of teams we are going to play may be more athletic, long armed and they don’t get tired,” said Timms. “Hopefully we can play more girls this year. If this team plays hard, just off their natural ability, the sky is the limit.”
“I’m cautiously optimistic I guess,” said Timms. We’ve got to stay injury free. My first year here Hope Lyle tore her ACL. Last year our leading returning score Kylie Tadlock had seizures, so it’s like we’ve been snake bit the last two years. Hopefully, we’ll stay injury free this year.”
“We’re going to start Ashlen Gonzalez as a sophomore, Rhyen Martin is another one that I’m excited about. She’s got everything and is probably the most athletic kid on our team. She is big, fast and if she plays hard all the time she will be another one we will be talking about. Then we will have Raegan Richardson, Harley Dering who is our emotional leader and then Jacee Wilkerson is a junior. She is our jitterbug. Defensively she’s the girl we can put on somebody’s best player, so we are excited about her. We have two seniors and they both are going to come off the bench.”
This is Coach Timms third year at the helm of the Lady Eagle basketball machine. “It should come down to us and Genoa Central, again,” said Timms “It always does. We’ve played Genoa six times in the last two years and it’s never been over a five point game. They do a great job over there.”
“This team has a chance to be one of the best teams we’ve ever had here,” said Timms. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”