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More mature Lady Cardinals could be very competitive this basketball season

The Bridge City girls basketball team was very young last year so had to play through some growing pains. The Lady Cardinals are showing the promise this season that they will make the playoffs and contend with the top opponents in the district.

Coach Larry Sterling moved back to Bridge City last year and took over the girls basketball program. "We had kind of an up and down season, but we had a young team last year sporting five freshmen and four sophomores. We have a lot of girls back this season who are a little bit older. They kind of know what the expectations are for practices and games. The girls have put a lot of time in throughout the year, so I believe we're a little more confident and a little more mature this season," Sterling analyzed.

Experience should be a strength for Bridge City this season with the eight girls he has returning. Sterling replied, "Whitney Cunningham was second team all-district and came on strong at the end of the season. She was a sophomore and is a junior now."

Another returner is senior Rylynn Thornton who also made all-district for the Lady Cardinals last year. "Those two along with Nicole Sasser a junior who played a lot, sophomore Kaylee Britten who is on the verge of being an all-district player, Kennedy Campbell a sophomore, Kira Middleton a junior, and Laken Bellanger will all have bigger roles for us this season," Sterling indicated.

The Lady Cardinals should be better shooters with a year's experience on varsity under their belts. Sterling is counting on Kennedy Campbell, Kaylee Britten, and Whitney Cunningham all to be good shooters who will fill the hoop with buckets for Bridge City.

Nicole Sasser uses her excellent quickness to be an outstanding defender. Kailey Nelson is a sophomore who should be one of the strongest rebounders for the Lady Cardinals.

Sterling responded, "I believe we have a good mixture of inside and outside players. I think we'll try to maintain some balance with that by playing inside out. The biggest thing for us are expectations because the girls have been through it before and usually in their second season or more on varsity the game slows down for them and the confidence grows. We're expecting a bigger year for the Lady Cardinals this season."

The Bridge City varsity will contain ten members this year. Joining the eight returning Lady Cardinals on the varsity will be two new girls.

Abigail Janckila is a junior post player for Sterling. Janckila had a good year on the junior varsity last season.

"I believe she can help us and contribute. She is an athletic player at post. Abigail gives us some length and some shot blocking ability. Like anyone else it's going to take her time to get her footing under her at the varsity level. She's done a great job so far for us," Sterling praised.

Sophomore Nyah Hantz played on the freshmen squad last year and has made the jump to the varsity this season. Sterling described Hantz, "Another excellent defender that brings energy to the game, very coachable, plays hard, and we believe Nyah will be a plus player for us."

The season started this month for the girls in Bridge City. The Lady Cardinals split their first two games.

The first game was on the road against an improved Kirbyville team. The Lady Cardinals played shorthanded with seven girls since three members of the varsity basketball squad were still playing in the volleyball playoffs.

Bridge City finished the game with only four players because three of the girls fouled out. The Lady Cardinals took the lead with a minute left but eventually lost 35-33 to the Lady Wildcats.

The first home game for the Lady Cardinals was an eighteen point victory against Nederland. Whitney Cunningham was the leading scorer, Rylynn Thornton was the leading rebounder, and Kennedy Campbell led the team in assists. "We're looking forward to having all our kids back so we can practice together and build on things," Sterling added.

Every team presents a different type of challenge for Bridge City. The weekend before the Thanksgiving Day break saw the Lady Cardinals participate in the Nederland Classic Tournament with six games against a variety of teams including district opponent Jasper in the opening game of the tournament.

Sterling anticipated, "It's a good little measuring stick since Jasper was a playoff team last year in our district. That was an early season matchup that we can kind of see where we stand for the upcoming district season."

Part of Coach Sterling's job is to build a girls basketball program at Bridge City. Sterling emphasized, "When I first got here I knew it was going to take some time to get the ball rolling. We've really poured into our junior high programs, I'm fortunate we were able to hire Rickey Jacks as an assistant coach. He's helping us at the middle school especially to build a program to get those girls ready for the high school."

The possibility of success for the Bridge City Lady Cardinals has definitely increased this season. "We know it's a tough district and every game is going to be a tough matchup. We may not out talent anyone, but I think with the way our girls play defense and the effort they give I believe we'll be much better offensively. Our expectation for the varsity is always going to be to compete for a playoff spot. I think that's a more realistic goal this year than it was last season. We want to finish as high in the district standings as possible. We don't want to set our goals too low and say just the top four, we'd like to see how high we can get in the district overall," Sterling concluded.


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