High School Sports

Girls’ basketball preview: Sayre, new coach Charles Thomas look to build on success

Sayre's Wheeler previews the Spartans

All-City honorable mention guard says Spartans to pick up the pace under first-year coach Thomas
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All-City honorable mention guard says Spartans to pick up the pace under first-year coach Thomas

Last season: 19-7 (lost to Henry Clay in first round of 42nd District Tournament)

Coach: Charles Thomas (first year)

Three key contributors

Dee Dee Wheeler: Junior point guard who earned an honorable mention on last year’s All-City team. Thomas said her scoring ability and high basketball IQ will be crucial for the Spartans. “She has a really good feel for the game and understanding of all the aspects,” Thomas said. “Her experience is gonna help take us a long way.”

Kaya Davis: Sophomore forward who joined the team in the off-season. At 6-1, she’ll give the Spartans a new weapon in the post. Thomas said she “has great basketball instincts and scoring ability” and that she’ll be a key cog in the half-court offense. “She’s gonna give us a great low-post presence. We’ll look to pound the ball inside.”

Ellie Alford: Senior guard who’ll join Wheeler in the starting backcourt. “We expect a lot from Ellie,” Wheeler said. “She’s really fast and athletic and she’s always willing to lead and help.”

Others to watch

Isabelle Pergande (forward) and Lainie Tew (center) are both 5-11 juniors who Thomas said bring experience and swagger to the frontcourt. “They both give us good length and are hard workers,” he said. Emma Bilberry and Mia Pulliam are seniors who Thomas said have been “receptive of the new systems we are implementing and are working hard for our team.”

Games you gotta see

The Spartans will be tested early as they travel to Scott County on Dec. 5 then host reigning 42nd District champion Bryan Station three days later. Sayre scored a 46-41 road win over the Defenders last season in the only meeting between the teams.

Fast facts

Thomas was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball in 1995 as a senior guard for Harlan High School. In college, he played two years for Minnesota and was a member of the Golden Gophers’ 1997 team that suffered a 78-69 overtime loss to the University of Kentucky in the national semifinals. Thomas transferred to Eastern Kentucky for his junior season before back injuries cut his college career short. ... Senior Sydney Strup was lost for the year when she tore an ACL during the soccer season. Thomas said she’ll remain heavily involved with the team and provide “leadership off the court.”

Josh Sullivan: 859-231-3225, @sullyjosh

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