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INDEPENDENCE –– It’s too bad that game jerseys worn by the Grayson County girls’ basketball team do not have players’ names sewn onto the backs. It may take a game or two to get to know these ladies.
A gaggle of seniors, seven of them in fact, and most of them three-year regulars, are gone from the first and only regular season champion in Grayson County’s 19-year history. Suffice it to say there is a hole or two to be filled.
“I’d say,” said Tiny Funk, Grayson’s junior varsity coach last year, who is taking over after Thomas Owens vacated the position for health reasons. “Close to 50 points and 30 rebounds a game are gone. We graduated seven seniors – all five starters and the second one off the bench.”
With three varsity returners being joined by the core of a JV team that finished 11-12, Funk’s main focus in the early going has been finding a way to replace the production of Joyelle Combs (9.8 ppg, 3.1 ast.), Megan Funk (6.2 ppg., 5.1 rpg.) and district player of the year Mikaela Anders (18.5 ppg., 10.6 rpg). The task will hopefully be done by committee.
“We don’t have a dominant scorer,” Funk said. “What we’re looking for is eight points from six or seven different people, and they all have that capability.”
Junior guard Kayla Spurlin is the lone returner with significant varsity playing time under her belt. A lot will be expected of her and Leah Hall, another returner. Amber Blevins, a 5-6 wing, is the third returning player.
“We’re going to do things to get Kayla and Leah some shots,” said Funk, “because they are our two most experienced players and the two with the best capability of putting the ball in the bucket, so they need to shoot the ball regularly.”
At 5-foot-8, Hall and sophomore Catherine Vaughn comprise just about all of the Blue Devils’ size. Though Hall’s playing time was limited last year, she learned from two of the district’s better post players.
“Leah practiced every day against Megan and Mikaela and she’s used to playing against size,” Funk said. “She played well in our scrimmage. She rebounds very well.”
Vaughn is a good athlete and a good leaper and Courtney Halsey will also be a strong body in the paint for the Devils.
Devin Osborne, Alyssa Wingate, Jessica Caudill and Tiffany Osborne will all contribute.
“There’s no magic pill to get to be 6-2, but we’ll compete down there,” Funk said.
That showed in the Devils’ first scrimmage of the year, against John Battle.
“We competed really hard,” Funk said. “We didn’t get pounded on the boards like I was afraid of, and we didn’t get pounded in the paint.”
The good news coming from the scrimmage was that Grayson held Battle to 36 points in four quarters. The bad news is that the Devils put up just 23 points themselves.
“We’ve got to get better offensively,” Funk said. “We have to be more confident shooting the ball. The kids are almost too unselfish. They’ll pass up a 12-footer to try to get an 11-footer.”
Funk expects Fort Chiswell and Bland to be the top dogs in the district this year.
“Fort has four girls who could be player of the year,” he said, “and Bland returns either four or five starters.”
If Grayson County doesn’t contend, it won’t be for a lack of effort.
“These kids work hard, and it’s my job to figure out a way for them to be as successful as possible,” Funk said. “They come to practice every day, and they’re eager to learn. It may be a little difficult on the three returning payers because Coach Owens’ style and my style are a little bit different. Offensively we’re along the same lines as what Coach Owens did, but defensively I like a little more man-to-man. With the makeup of our team, we’re going to have to get some points defensively.”