Casey County looks to compete in stacked 12th Region

Published 7:54 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Contributing writer

Fourteen months ago Chris Souder was in Rupp Arena guiding the Mercer County girls to a second straight state basketball championship with thousands of fans watching. Last week he was at Danville High School coaching South Laurel in summer league play, including one game that had 18 fans watching.

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“But this is the time of year you get better so you can win in March,” said Souder.

Host Danville, Lincoln County, Garrard County, Casey County and Southwestern, last year’s state runner-up, were also competing in preparation for the 2019-20 season when 12th Region girls basketball should be as good as ever after taking state titles in 2017 and 2018 with Mercer and then Southwestern reaching the title game last season before losing to Ryle.

So who will be the best team this year?

Souder isn’t sure because he’s now in the 13th Region. However, he knew the value of playing 12th Region competition in the summer.

“Even now I don’t think the 12th Region gets the statewide respect it deserves. There are so many good teams, and will be again next year. That’s why I told my girls this was a great opportunity to measure themselves against some really good teams and see where we still have work to do,” Souder said.

Casey coach Tara Weddle hopes her team will be the next 12th Region champion. In 2018, Casey lost 62-40 to Mercer in the 12th Region title game and finished with a 26-7 mark. Last season the Rebels went 25-9 and lost 68-54 to Southwestern in the regional title game.

Tara Weddle hopes that her senior class can complete the rebuild and earn a trip to state. (Photo contributed)

After going 6-24 in the 2015-16 season, the Rebels have gone 71-26 the last three years. Weddle has seven seniors on this team, including three — Gena Craves, Lauren Lee and Haley Brock— who played in varsity games in the seventh grade when Casey was 11-15 before the record dipped to 6-24 the next season.

When the seniors were freshmen, Casey lost in the opening game of district play and lost six of its last eight games. As sophomores, Casey won eight of its last 11 games and won the district title with two wins of 30 or more points. Last season Casey had a 10-game win streak and won 14 of 15 before falling to Southwestern in the regional final. That win streak included a 99-97 win over Danville that was one of the state’s highest scoring games ever.

“These girls have worked so hard and continue to work hard. They know this is their last chance coming up to get to the state,” Weddle said.

She has three players who have already scored over 1,000 points going into their final season.

• Gena Cravens has played in 153 games in five years and has 1,814 points along with 391 rebounds, 293 assists and 192 steals. She’s averaged 11.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game is a 37 percent 3-point shooter with 338 made 3’s in her career. She’s also a 78 percent shooter at the foul line. Give Cravens an open 3 and there’s good chance she’s going to make it.

“We also want her to put the ball on the floor more this year and she’s working on that,” Weddle said. “She should go over 2,000 points this season.”

  Lauren Lee has scored 1,391 points in 135 games and is a career 50 percent shooter form the field. She has been to the foul line 667 times and is a 70 percent foul shooter. She also has 631 assists, 483 rebounds, 337 steals and 26 blocked shots. She can dominate a game with by penetrating the lane and scoring or passing. Weddle wants her to improve her outside shot — she’s a 31 percent 3-point shooter.

• Natalie Duggins has 1,069 points in 127 games and is a 34 percent 3-point shooter and 76 percent shooter at the foul line. She also has 733 rebounds (5.7 per game) along with 176 steals, 121 assists and 54 blocks. “She just has to believe even more in what she can do but she does whatever we need,” Weddle said.

• Jordyn Stephens transferred to Casey from Pulaski for her sophomore season. She’s has a combined 845 points, 270 rebounds, 160 assists, 111 steals and 22 blocks in her prep career. She’s a 41 percent shooter from the field and 71 percent at the foul line.

“With her speed, she can do so many things,” Weddle said. “Sometimes she just doesn’t realize how fast she is and what she can do. She’s always hustling and will go over 1,000 points this year if she stays healthy.”

  Shaylah Wilkey has played in 126 games the last four years and has 685 points, 485 rebounds, 77 steals and 49 blocks. She provides an inside physical presence.

  Hayley Brock has been in 143 games, including 20 as a seventh-grader, and has 320 rebounds and 319 points.

  Mackenzie Cundiff can play multiple positions and has 310 points in the 113 games she’s played. She has 71 steals and 67 assists.

“They have all been with me since seventh grade except for Jordy (Stephens) who transferred over,” Weddle said. “I don’t even know what it will be like coaching without them. I would love to see them win the region this year but in the 12th Region, nothing comes easy.

“We are going to have a lot of good teams again. Obviously Southwestern will be good with all the players it has back even with a new coach. Danville has some really good young players. Lincoln County has to rebuild but has a great player in Trinity Shearer. Mercer County really came on at the end of last year and has some outstanding players.

“The 12th Region is just really good every year and will be again this season. That’s why even though it is May, you have to be playing and working to get better if you want to have a chance to win this region.”