The night of Nov. 21 was a busy night for McLean County High School athletics. There was a chili supper in the commons area before the girls' and boys' basketball teams scrimmaged to give their fans a first look this season. The football team also lit a bonfire near the practice field to celebrate their historic season before heading off to the third round of the playoffs.
A large crowd of Cougar fans filled the gymnasium to see the maroon and white scrimmages among the basketball teams. The freshman and JV boys' played first followed by the Lady Cougars. The boys' varsity ended the night with some time on the hardwood.
When asked to comment on the team's plans this season, girls' head coach Arlando Johnson replied, "We want to win our district and beat Muhlenberg. Our goal is to be playing our best basketball in February."
The Lady Cougars will be returning their entire team from last season and that will be a huge plus, according to Johnson. "Our experience will be a strength for us. We have seen it all together."
Makena Rush, Kamryn McMahon, and Bailei Walker are expected to be the leaders on offense. Natalie Patterson and Alyssa Burrough will be asked to do more in the areas of scoring and play-making.
A challenge for the team will be to get scoring from all five positions as well as rebounding and other big stats for key players, shared Johnson. "It will be the key to success."
"We had solid scrimmages and practice," shared Johnson. "If we can improve on shooting and scoring it will be a huge help. It's all about scoring for this team."
The boys' basketball team has been working hard and is progressing nicely, according to new head coach Darren Lynam. "There is always a learning curve when a new coach takes over, but I feel the boys have adapted really well as to how they need to play to be successful."
The Cougars also have a great deal of experience returning and the team is anticipating a big year. Trey Englehardt, Logan Patterson, Jacob Clark and Brayden Bishop have all played several varsity minutes the past two years. Junior Brady Dame is a quality big man returning to play inside. Newcomer Isaac Springer will add to an already potent lineup. "(Springer) has looked really good in our practices and scrimmages thus far," stated Lynam. Quality minutes are also expected from seniors Tanner Wilkerson, Zach Mimms and Caleb Johnson. Juniors Travis Phillips, Jaden Arnold and Andrew Brackett have also shown signs in practice of being able to compete and play at the varsity level, according to Lynam.
This year's team has set several goals for the season. They intend to get above .500, win the All 'A' Region and advance to the All 'A' State Tournament. They also plan to win the 10th District and advance to the 3rd Region Tournament.
The boys' basketball program has not had a winning season since 2012 and has not had back-to-back winning seasons since 1984-85. "I feel we have the talent in the program at the present time to do both," shared Lynam. "A lot of people know about the talent our seniors possess, but I don't think they realize we have some younger players who will make up a pretty strong JV team as well." One of the team's assistants predicted that the JV team will be stronger than some of the varsity opponents.
The junior and sophomore classes have quality players in them; they are just blocked from the varsity right now by some really quality seniors, according to Lynam. The freshman team is also expected to do well with several players who can compete and more than hold their own at even the JV level.
"We had a tremendous effort in our scrimmage at Trigg County on Saturday where the varsity won all four quarters played and the JV also won by a decided advantage," stated Lynam. "Trigg County has a really athletic and physical team and should win a number of games this year."
Coming off the excitement of a historic football season, Cougar fans are looking forward to great things for basketball season as they change their focus from the gridiron to the hardwood.