The Newcastle girls’ basketball team is coming off a sensational season in which they went 20-8 and qualified for the third straight year for the Class 4A state tournament in Oklahoma City.
The Racers’ season came to an end with a 65-43 loss to Fort Gibson in the quarterfinals. The game marked the end of the high school careers of Newcastle seniors Katie Mayo, Emily Cerny, Caitlynne Weatherly, Hailey Sylvester, and Kindle Nelms.
Those five were instrumental in the Racers’ fortunes the last three years – including winning the Class 4A state championship in 2016. But, Newcastle head coach Brett Sanders is as eager as he ever has been for another season to begin – perhaps the beginning of a new era.
“We’re an awfully young group and we lost a lot of girls from last year,” said Sanders, in his fifth year at the helm of the Racers. “But, this has been a great group to work with and we’re having a good time in practice. It’s a great day every time I come out here to practice with these girls. They’re always ready to play and they’re working hard to get better. I’m seeing a lot of improvement.
“We’re excited and we’ve been playing well. I’m just looking forward to getting the season started and watching how hard these girls work. That’s what has impressed me the most – their work ethic. It might be a little more different style than we played last year. But, we’re always going to come out and play hard and give it all we’ve got.”
Last year, the Racers played an up-tempo game and liked to move the ball quickly up and down the court. This year, Newcastle’s style of play might be more deliberate as they work the floor more and make good shot selections.
“We’re going to have certain places where we’ll be shooting the ball like we did,” Sanders said. “But, there’s going to be some things we’ll have to do offensively to help set us up for some scoring opportunities, too. We’re not quite as fast as we were last year. But, because these girls work so hard, I think we’ll get it done on the defensive end as well as on the offensive end.”
There are only two seniors on Newcastle’s varsity roster this year – Abbey Bond and Haylee Brown. The juniors are Morgan Bergt, Maddy North, and Emily Coyne.
Madison Barnett, Raegan Yingling, Kyley Cox, Jenna Gilbertson, Piper Houghton, and Allison Goad are this year’s sophomores. The freshmen include Kennady Scisson, Chloe Cargal, Abby Coyne, Tameka Talley, Destiny Donahue, and Lauren Cook.
Bond and Bergt (both guards) have garnered several valuable minutes and had their moments already as varsity players under Sanders. Coyne saw some time last year on the floor for the Racers as well. North is a forward with a soft touch on the perimeter. She’ll be looked at as a force around the rim and in the paint for the Racers.
“Our schedule is great for us because we have a lot of great teams that will be vying for the state tournament this year,” Sanders said. “It’s definitely going to be another tough battle every game. It will be exciting to see how our conference unfolds.” The Racers host Tuttle in their season opener at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 28.