Girls basketball at Keys High School is gearing up for a winning season with experience, hard work and enthusiasm.
With three returning starters, Coach Jami Springwater said the team has grown up a lot since last year when they were really young playing as sophomores and freshmen.
Senior forward Emma McCurtain averaged 2.5 blocks and 9.5 rebounds per game.
"Emma hit over the 250 marker of her career rebounds this past year," said Springwater.
She was also named Big 8 All-Conference player on the third team, and represented the conference in an All-Star Game this past March.
"I look for Emma to have a breakout year this year. She will be replacing Autumn Wolff as my defensive anchor," the coach said.
Junior point guard Ashlynn Berry averaged hit 4.9 assists and 9.2 points per game. She hit the marker of 156 assists and also has 294 points for her career.
"Ashlynn was the Big 8 Conference MVP and represented the conference in the All-Star Game on the first team," said Springwater.
Berry was also named All-Tournament Player in the J.T. Dixon Memorial Tournament in Haskell and the Warner Cherokee Classic Tournament, and All-Vype of the Three Rivers Area.
"I look for Ashlynn to become the leader of the team. She has been training really hard during this off-season. I have noticed her speed has picked up and became faster," Springwater said.
Sophomore shooting guard Kylie Eubanks hit a career of 364 points this past year as a freshmen, and averaged 13.5 points per game. She was named Big 8 All-Conference Player and represented the conference on the team 1 in the All-Star game this past March.
Eubanks was also named MVP of the J.T. Dixon Memorial Tournament in Haskell and the Warner Cherokee Classic Tournament, named All-Vype of the Three Rivers Area, and top 10 All Phoenix player in the Muskogee Phoenix.
"Kylie was our leading scorer this past year as a freshmen. I look forward to see her growth with her scoring and rebounding from her freshmen year to sophomore year," Springwater said.
Senior forward Trinity Ward and sophomore shooting guard/point guard Sierra Winkler worked hard coming off the bench last year, according to Springwater.
"I am looking forward to seeing Trinity increase her offense productivity. She plays great defense," the coach said. "I believe Sierra will be my most improved player from last year to this year. Sierra was averaging 4.5 points per game."
Four other Lady Cougars round out the team: Senior forward Alyssa Radomski, junior shooting guard Kristina Holmes, sophomore shooting guard Kylie Stilwell, and sophomore Jaedynn Scott, small forward/shooting guard.
"These four girls came in and would help their team out every time their number was called," Springwater said.
Jaedynn Scott was out most of last year due to an injury and did not start playing until the end of January.
"Jaedynn helped us defensively, averaging 4.5 rebounds per game, and offensively, averaging 4.5 points per game," she said.
Two new freshmen coming into the program this year are Ashlyn Radomski, shooting guard, and Abby Walker, shooting guard.
The coach acknowledged the efforts of two former players.
"We are replacing two great players from last year: Autumn Wolff played center and was my defensive anchor and one of my leading rebounders, also known as the one of the 'Twin Tower'; and Nicole Brown, a great shooter and defensive player. She had the highest percentage on the team with 3-pointers. These two players will be greatly missed."
Coach Springwater said she is excited to see these girls come in with more excitement this year and more knowledge about the game under them.
"They are more skilled players this year than last year," she said. "I believe this group, this year, will be just stronger than they were last year."
Springwater is in her third year coaching the Lady Cougars basketball team. She also coaches grades 3-8 girls basketball at Keys. She said her assistant, Amy Hamilton, is awesome and helps in every way she can.
"I have a passion of wanting to help players to expand their knowledge of playing the game and developing new skills that they can compete with," Springwater said. "As I coach, I love adding life lessons along the way that will help them prepare for adulthood."
This group is very special to Springwater because she's coached most of these ladies since they were in the sixth grade. She said they are like her kids.
"I have a great bond with this group because they were my first group ever to coach in the school system when they were in junior high and elementary. They have been with me for awhile," she said. "It's been awesome to watch them grow up by gaining knowledge of the game and by developing new skills in basketball."