High School Basketball

Girls’ basketball preview: Lafayette

Lafayette's Kiara Pankins shoots in the lane past Woodford County's Chelsey Ford (34), during the opening round of the girls 11th Region Tournament, Tuesday night, March 3, 2015, at McBrayer Arena in Richmond. Lafayette won 62-42.
Lafayette's Kiara Pankins shoots in the lane past Woodford County's Chelsey Ford (34), during the opening round of the girls 11th Region Tournament, Tuesday night, March 3, 2015, at McBrayer Arena in Richmond. Lafayette won 62-42. Herald-Leader

Last season: 22-10

Coach: Allison Denton (15th year)

Key contributors:

1. Kiara Pankins: 5-10 junior forward who’s the team’s leading returning scorer at 11.9 points last season. Not a natural post player (“She was a wing for me last year,” Denton said.) but “she is a team player” who’s willing to do what she needs to in order to best help the team. She’ll still get a lot of time out on the perimeter on offense.

Said Pankins: “I think this year we’re faster so you should be expecting a lot of press out of us and a lot of run and gun. But I’m not expecting anything less than what we’ve been achieving. I’m expecting us to win district just like we have been. And I’m expecting us to compete in the region but we have a lot of work to do.”

2. Aisha Conwell: 5-10 senior forward who averaged 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds last season.

3. Caroline Bennett: 5-8 sophomore guard who played in 31 games as a freshman. “We just need to work on improving every time we get together and practice and play,” Bennett said.

Others to watch: Terri Abrams, sophomore transfer who’ll be the team’s “brand new point guard.” Shelby Wilson, eighth-grade point guard who will back up Abrams.

Games you gotta see: The Generals, while young, were tabbed by the coaches as the city’s second-best team behind Henry Clay. Those two go at it twice soon after the new year gets underway: at Lafayette on Jan. 5 and at Henry Clay on Jan. 22. Franklin County, the pick to come out of the 11th Region, welcomes Lafayette on Dec. 8.

Fast facts: Gone is Dee Givens, the 11th Region Player of the Year a season ago who now plays for Western Kentucky. She scored 13 points in 30 minutes of action in WKU’s first two games. ... Of all the city’s coaches, none has been with their program longer than Denton. She was the Generals softball coach for two years before taking over girls’ basketball.

View the Generals’ schedule and roster.

Coach’s corner

The future: "We’re very green. I’ve got a lot of good ball players. I’ve got one and a half returning starters and a lot of good freshmen and sophomores. We’re in a hurry to turn the ball over sometimes, but they have a lot of good skill. Our future’s bright but right now they’re babies having to learn a lot. Right now in my starting lineup I’ve got two sophomores and a freshman. And coming off the bench I’ve got another freshman and an eighth-grader.”

Starting over: “We haven’t had to start over for like four years. ... We’re very athletic but we’re very green. It’s gonna take us some time. We’re saying the same things over and over every day and we’re just reminding ourselves that we did the same thing four years ago, too.”

Turnovers in preseason: “You’d thought the basketball was on fire. We couldn’t wait to get rid of it. The bottom line is they’re learning everything new. Every part of this game, they’re all trying to mesh. It’s just going to take some time. They’re a great bunch of girls and I love ’em. They’re listening and hard-working but they’re young. And the only thing that’s gonna get them any better is playing. They just have to be in there for tough situations, with the clock ticking down, with somebody double-teaming them. They’ve gotta feel that.”

Up and down: “In spurts we look great and in spurts we look bad. That’s again part of just having teams that are trying to mesh and trying to gel. But they’ve got God-given ability. I’ve got kids that can shoot the ball and are quick, it’s just learning what we need to do. Hopefully after Christmas things will start clicking a bit.”

Dee 2.0: “A couple of the girls remind me of Dee Givens, who went to Western. They remind me of what she looked like. But, time. We worked hard with Dee and she was coachable. She improved leaps and bounds each year.”

What excites her most: “The future. I know that we’re gonna have some rough ones this year. I know it’s gonna be things that we lose because of things that we’ve done. When you’ve got young ones out there that’s what happens. I’m not looking forward to that part of it but I’m looking forward to them growing because the future’s bright with this group.”

Bench talk

Kiara Pankins: On team’s youth ... “It’s very frustrating. Especially (for me). I’ve been here since I was in seventh grade playing varsity ball. I feel like I have a lot on my shoulders being the most experienced and being probably the only varsity starter this year from last year. It’s frustrating but I’m excited for the new girls. I think they’ll get the hang of it.”

On putting in extra work ... “We’ve been coming in on our own time on Sundays trying to get together to shoot around and develop chemistry between each other.”

On representing Lafayette ... “I think Lafayette basketball is completely different than any other program in Fayette County. I just feel like we are held to a higher standard from the past few years. We made it to state my freshman year. I feel like we have more people looking to us to be the standouts in Lexington.”

On living up to expectations ... “I hope so. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of young girls and they’re just trying to get into the rhythm of playing at this pace. I think we’ll be OK.”

Aisha Conwell: On the 2015-16 Generals ... “We’re a really young team so we all have to practice trying to work together and playing together. But we’ll get it.”

On the younger girls ... “They’re really fast learners, it’s just they have to learn to be in control. We have a lot of skill but they’re still learning to play together.”

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

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