Model coach Candace Wells asked her players this summer about their goals for the 2019-2020 season.
She was pleasantly surprised by the response she received.
“They want to the win the 11th Region All “A” Classic,” Well said. “They want to have a winning season and they want to have the most wins ever by a Model team.”
Just a few years ago, all those goals would have seemed completely unrealistic.
Things are different, though.
The Lady Patriots (12-17) took a tremendous step forward last season, winning 10 more games than in 2017-2018.
Now, they want to move again.
“We don’t want to be like the teams of the past,” Wells said.
Model graduated just one player from last season — Savanna Gullett — and bring back a talented, experienced and young core of players.
The Lady Patriots won’t have a senior on the roster this year.
“We have a lot more options than we’ve had in the past,” Wells said.
Model’s tremendous improvement last season was even more impressive considering the team’s extensive injury/illness issues. No player on the roster appeared in all 29 games.
“We had to play a game last year with just six kids,” Wells said.
Injuries/illness have really hampered the team’s junior class.
McKenna Tuttle, McKenzie Johnson and Mary Alex Taylor have not played a full season in their high school careers.
Tuttle is healthy and is set to take over full time at point guard.
She played in 17 games last season, averaging 4.1 points a game.
“There’s where we’ve always wanted her because she really pushes the pace,” Wells said of Tuttle at point guard. “We are excited to have her healthy.”
The Lady Patriots also have talented group of sophomores.
Summer Ray (8.9 points a game), Kenzie Ferguson (8.6 ppg), Keaton Hall (9.5 ppg) and Taylor LeCompte (5.3 ppg) are Model’s top returning scorers from last season.
Ray transferred from Garrard County last season and made a big impact. She scored a team-best 248 points and averaged 3.2 rebounds a game.
“She wasn’t going to play basketball when she came to Model,” Wells said of Ray. “I convinced her to play and she had fun with it.”
LeCompte emerged as an offensive and defensive presence in the middle last season. She averaged 8.0 rebounds a game.
“She’s doing a better job running the court and she’s gotten better offensively,” Wells said of LeCompte. “We need that big body in there.”
Model had only three players hit a three-pointer last season — Gullett (35), Ferguson (32) and Ray (13).
Ferguson has already shown she can hit from long range and Keaton has the ability not only to just drive, but also shoot from the outside.
“We haven’t been a good shooting team,” Wells said. “But, for us to be successful, we need to be. Teams will sit in zones and lay back on us. We’ve all been working on shooting. Keaton has put a lot of work in and been shooting a lot of threes.”
The Lady Patriots also have four freshman — Presley Lochmueller, Alyssa Hudson, Sophia Koontz and Megan Perkins — who will certainly push for playing time this season.
“Presley just hustles. She gets after it. Alyssa has really improved too. Sophia Koontz and Megan Perkins didn’t play up last year, but they will be able to provide us minutes,” Wells said of the freshmen. “They are a smart group.”
Model’s progress toward those big goals this season could also very well be measured by success at the free throw line.
The Lady Patriots shot 48.3 percent as a team from the stripe last season, connecting on only 257 of 532 attempts.
“I think about how many games we could have won if we just been better at the free throw line,” Wells said. “I think it will be improved. I don’t think it can be much worse.”