Clay Battelle, Local Sports, Sports

Better fundamentals the key to improvement for Clay-Battelle girls’ basketball

BLACKSVILLE — When asked to sum up last year’s Clay-Battelle girls basketball team’s season, coach David Joyce delivered an answer rather quickly. 

“At 8-15, with a first-round Sectional loss, I’d say we were pretty average at best,” he said. “That’s not the kind of year we were hoping for, and it’s not the kind of year we expect to have at Clay-Battelle.” 

When asked the inevitable follow-up question about why things didn’t go quite as expected, the veteran coach responded even quicker – “turnovers and offensive rebounds against” – but with an apology attached. 

“I know that just about every coach in the history of the game has said basically the same thing,” he smiled, “but clichés ring true for a reason. It’s the fundamentals – Basketball 101 – and it probably doesn’t make for an exciting headline, but it never really goes out of style, either. There’s no doubt in my mind that if we take better care of the ball and we take care of our defensive glass, we finish above .500 last season for sure.  

“There’s already one team trying to beat you out there,” he continued, “so it makes no sense helping them do it. That’s what we’re preaching this year, and what we’re working on in practice every day.” 

The good news is that at least most of the time, the more varsity experience players have on their resume, the more they understand how important those fundamentals truly are, and this year’s Cee-Bees are happy to bring back five seniors – Raylee Hennen, Laikyn Dalton, Elyse Moore, Lydia Moore, and Kenly Statler. 

And joining them, fresh off a Mason-Dixon middle school tournament championship last season, are a pair of talented freshmen, Bre DeBolt and Ali Hellyer, and Joyce is looking to bring them into the fold as quickly as possible in order to install a quicker, up-tempo flavor to the team. 

“It’s really obvious to see the difference right now when we have freshmen on the court compared to when we have five varsity experienced players out there,” he cautioned. “Just the speed of the game, the physicality – there’s a lot to adjust to. But when they get on the same page with everyone else offensively – the defense is pretty much there – we should be able to run more and generate some easy points, which is always a plus. ” 

Helping underclassmen with that crucial transition into varsity basketball is every senior’s responsibility, and shooting guard Elyse Moore and the rest of her fellow seniors are excited about the opportunity to make their final season their best. 

“We’ve all been playing together since middle school,” she recalled, grinning, “so it feels like we’ve been on a court together forever. And we all know that the quicker the younger girls get comfortable playing with everyone, the better we can be. And we all remember what it felt like as freshmen, so we’re just being really supportive and encouraging, and mostly we’re trusting them with the ball in their hands, even if they don’t quite trust themselves yet. Everybody makes mistakes, and the best way to minimize them is to work on your decision-making and recognize what’s coming so you can be ready for it. 

“We’ve all been through it,” she concluded, “and so we can help them stay positive and ready to do positive things in games for us. I’m excited, and I really think this is going to be a good year.” 

The Cee-Bees begin the year on the road on Dec. 11 at Tygarts Valley and make their home debut on Dec. 21 against Doddridge County.