Garrard County boys basketball ready for district play

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, January 4, 2018

LANCASTER — Garrard County head coach Ryan Young knows the 45th District.

Last year was his first as a head coach for the Golden Lions, and this year, he thinks his team can compete with anyone in the district.

“We viewed it, all offseason, fall workouts and through this season that there’s an open door for us, and I feel like the other teams view that as well,” Young said. “There’s a lot of good players, a lot of good coaches in this district. I played for one of them, coached under coach (Steve) Adams at Boyle. I know how they prepare and how hard they work. I feel like our kids should be confident because we come to work every day and we’re going to put together a good gameplan and be ready to go for these games.”

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The Golden Lions picked up steam in the second half of last season, winning six games in their final 12 games. They took Boyle County to double overtime and Lincoln County to overtime and beat Danville , all in a five-game span.

So how has Garrard looked this year?

“I scheduled a whole lot harder,” Young said. “I’ve kind of put us through the gauntlet here early to see how we’d respond. It has been up and down, we’re starting to play better basketball of late. I put us in a public Lexington holiday tournament at Henry Clay, I couldn’t tell you the last time we’d been in one of those. We’ve played some stiff competition.”

Garrard lost nine of its first 10 games this season but has since won three of four. Five losses have been decided by seven points or less.

“I feel like we’re taking steps forward, these Christmas tournaments have helped us a lot to become more of a team and work more together,” senior point guard Trevor Jones said. “I think we’re taking steps forward and that’s what we needed to do before district play.”

Jones is one of four seniors that have logged significant minutes in their careers, and they’ve been tasked with replacing two strong seniors in Brandon Pingleton and Parker Dailey from last year.

“I think I’m a little bit more relaxed because I’ve got a veteran-laden team,” Young said. “But at the same time, not much has changed with my philosophy and approach. We’re playing a little bit differently, where we lost (Parker Dailey). We’re a bit more guard-centric this year, that’s a change for us.”

Dailey’s size left a huge hole in the middle, one that junior Charles Jones has taken up well thus far.

“He hasn’t played much basketball in the past,” Young said. “He didn’t play much in middle school, didn’t play in our program as a freshman but we got him to come out last year. He’s very raw, he’s got a lot of athletic ability. But for him it’s a day-to-day process of learning to play each possession and play with the type of intensity we need from him. But he took some great strides through the holiday tournaments and I expect him to continue to show up and improve.”

On the leadership front, Young said that Jones has improved in the vocal leadership department and his other seniors have done well so far this year.

“It’s still a process, day-to-day,” Young said. “I’d say a majority of our team are introverts, we don’t have a loud guy, a guy that kind of pulls everybody together. We have to do it collectively. Trevor Jones, our senior point guard, has started to do a better job of late, trying to be that locker room guy and on-the-floor leader. Justin (Preston) and Carter (Moss), they’re more of our emotional leaders. They’ve been through some wars. We were a little banged up early on but I think these guys are stepping up and I think we’re going to turn the corner here soon.”

Forward Braden Sebastian has stepped up in the scoring department. The sophomore leads Garrard in points and rebounds.

“He’s been playing very well,” Young said. “He can be a very special player before his time is done here. Right now, I think he’s averaging 17 and 9. He’s played really well of late, I think he has four double-doubles in our last six. We’re starting to utilize him some more in the post, he’s starting to show some more physicality. But he’s been a perimeter player his whole life. Growing up, he played on the perimeter. We still want him to do those things, attack in transition. And he’s starting to shoot the ball better. But for a sophomore, he’s starting to come into his own.”

In the past four games, Garrard has stepped up on the defensive end, allowing an average of 52 points per game. That’s the challenge for the Golden Lions this season after starting the year strong on the offensive end.

“We have enough guys that can score the basketball, our issue so far this season is that we haven’t guarded very well,” Young said. “It’s one of those deals where we’ve worked on it in practice but it hasn’t always transferred over to the games. Our defensive intensity and effort picked up in that tournament and last night against Montgomery County, we played a pretty solid defensive game as well.”

Preston, a senior, said that this year he’s noticed an uptick in scoring. But he agreed with his coach that defense will be key.

“Mainly we’ve got to lock down on defense,” Preston said. “We’re pretty good offensively, last year we could barely get into the 60s. Now we’re getting into the 70s almost every game. Now, we just need to lock down on defense.”

The Golden Lions are averaging seven more points per game this year compared to last, and have already matched last season’s output for 70-point performances at four.

Now, Garrard will get to test its mettle against the 45th District. Garrard visits Boyle County on Friday.

“I don’t think you ever know until you get into those battles and those wars,” Young said. “I’m confident because I feel like we have those guys that have played on the road and played Boyle, Lincoln and Danville. But we know every game is going to be a war. But that’s what you play for, you play for those types of games. We’re looking forward to the opportunity of going into Boyle and standing up to the challenge. They’re a great team but we feel like we can compete with them if we play our game well.”

The seniors are excited — last season’s game at Boyle County finished as a 72-66 loss in double overtime.

“I’m excited, we’ll have two days to prepare and I think our coaches will do everything to prepare us for Boyle County,” Jones said. “We know what to expect, we just need to go out and execute.”

Preston said that Young and his staff have been focusing the seniors on 2004 — the last time Garrard won a district title.

“I’m just wanting to go out with a bang this year, go out and do something that we haven’t done since 2004 and win district,” Preston said. “Coach always brings it up in practice … Really, I think we have the potential to do something in districts this year. Everybody in the district is pretty even, I feel like, and I think we have a good shot to get to region.”

Young said the expectations might be higher after last season’s strong finish, but he doesn’t focus on that outside pressure.

“For me, there were expectations last year,” he said. “That might be the coaches mindset, when you’re with the guys every day and you see them work, you put expectations on yourself. I don’t really worry about outside expectations. I know our record isn’t glamorous right now, we’ve played a lot of tough competition and we’ve lost a lot of close games this year as well. But I feel like we’ve got four seniors, other guys with varsity minutes so I think we should be able to compete and contend in these games.”