Clay Battelle, Joe Smith, Local Sports, Sports

Clay-Battelle girls’ basketball team battling both experience, youth this season

BLACKSVILLE — This season is shaping up to be a tale of two stories for the Clay-Battelle girls’ basketball team.

One storyline forming in Blacksville is that of experience. Coach David Joyce and assistant Doug Steele both return to the sideline, providing over 20 years worth of coaching experience to the squad.

That experience comes with a few talented, battle-tested returners to help lead the charge for the Cee-Bees (1-0). Juniors Rylee Burnette and Joleigh Sollars and sophomore Autumn Stewart return with a season under their belt in Joyce’s system.

“I can count on the girls on the floor to listen and execute as I ask,” Joyce said. “The returning players understand the system and what I want.”

Burnette said the familiarity with the system should show as the team looks to grow on last year’s successes — which included a top two seed in Class A sectionals.

“Having that experience helps out a good bit,” she said. “Sometimes Coach Joyce has his way of talking, and you just have to be able to interpret some things.”

With that immense amount exposure to the game, one might be surprised to hear Joyce talk about his expectations for the team. Mainly that he sees them struggling with inexperience. That’s the second story for Clay-Battelle.

The team loses two 1,000-point scorers to graduation in Abbey Ammons and Haley Barr. Many new faces will attempt to fill their shoes on the roster — some that have little experience on the hardwood. The Cee-Bees also lack a senior leader this season.

“With youth comes inexperience, and that might be our biggest weakness. Losing two 1,000-point scorers will be tough to overcome,” he said. “But some of our new faces will contribute right away.

“I’ll expect we’ll learn something new about ourselves every game whether it be a win or loss. There are only nine girls on the team this year, and some of them have never played before.”

Burnette believes those so-called limitations will actually be beneficial for the squad. She expects her team to rise to the occasion and use the challenge as an educational episode.

“It’s a big hurt, but I see it as an opportunity to grow and learn,” she said. “It’s going to take patience. We’re a young team.”

Despite Joyce’s worries, current evidence points to the contrary. The Cee-Bees stormed out to a 53-23 win against Hundred during their season-opener recently — with Sollars notching 19 points and freshman Liv Ammons contributing 17.

“I’m looking to just give it 110 percent every day and to see improvement from start to finish of the season,” Burnette said. “We’re a young team, but we’re eager to learn and grow.”