By Stephen Smoot
Last year, the Pendleton County girls’ basketball team rode the talents of their team and star player Ana Young to the state tournament.
This year, Young is lighting up college scoreboards, the Wildcats have a new coach, and a new lineup ready to have a great season and try to return to Charleston.
Donnie Kopp, a seasoned veteran as a coach, has two state girls’ basketball titles on his record. He brings a new style of play in his first season. “We’ve patterned it after Glenville women and West Liberty’s men,” he said.
Kopp has taken his roster of 10 and declared that no one is truly a starter. The team is broken into two squads of relatively equal ability. The goal lies in creating one minute “shifts.” Each squad will give as much as they can for approximately one minute on both ends of the floor, then come off for rest.
If it works as expected, all will average about 16 minutes per game. They will run a fast paced offense and suffocating full court man pressure.
“We have quickness and size,” Kopp shared, adding that “we should be able to create turnovers.” On defense the team “will always use full court pressure. We’ll shoot a lot of threes and get a lot of layups.”
Speaking of the up tempo and full participation style, he shared, “As a player, I don’t know how you couldn’t like that.”
As for the opponents, Kopp stated, “I want them to dread playing us.”
He warned fans that a new system takes time for the players to digest and said it might be until February before the team is running in top form. However, the frenetic pace and talent of the team should rack up wins before that.
Kopp praised the work put in by the players so far during practice. He called returning point guard Avery Townsend “solid” and added that “Julia Mongold is going to surprise a lot of people.” Gabby DePue brings back significant experience at the post. She will be helped by Susan Vincell who “has really been impressive” and has grown considerably in height during the summer.
Nataley Hedrick, who plays the point guard position as well, Kopp called a “scrapper” and added that Jameigh Miller, a sophomore who saw a lot of playing time last year, “can go inside or outside.” Jenna Smith, who showed pugnacity on defense last year, is doing very well so far, as well as sophomore Kiera Heavner and freshmen Olivia Gonshor and Jessica Parker.
“The effort from all 10 has been really good,” he added.
Play will start with a scrimmage at class double A runner up Phillip Barbour. He added two games with Buckhannon-Upshur to the schedule, and they will also play in a tournament at Hampshire.
“I want to play the best teams we can play,” Kopp said. “It will be great to see on a weekly basis how they improve.”