FRANKLIN FURNACE — For the Green Lady Bobcats, it’s definitely not a senior circuit.
However, with a roster consisting exclusively of underclassmen, this could be one of their best seasons in recent memory.
At least 15-year head coach Melissa Knapp believes so — and even knows so.
In her own words, Knapp is more than ready to get this campaign officially tipped off.
The Bobcats field a roster with no seniors, a half dozen freshmen, five juniors, along with two sophomores, as four starters return off last season’s 10-14 squad — which went 6-8 in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I.
“This is the most excited I’ve been in a long time about getting a season off and rolling. This team has great potential. It depends on us showing up, giving 110-percent effort, and bringing our ‘A’ game to every single game on that schedule. There’s not an easy win on there,” said Knapp. “But I’m looking forward to a great year. I’m ready to get the show started.”
The returning cast of characters includes five-foot seven-inch sophomore Kasey Kimbler, who averaged a team-high 16 points per game — and earned third-team Division IV all-Southeast District. honors.
Kimbler set three Green High School records last season, including for made three-point goals in a single tilt with 11.
The other top returnee is 5-10 junior forward Kame Sweeney, who led the Lady Bobcats in double-doubles.
Kimbler and Sweeney start along with returning junior guards Charli Blevins (5-4) and Kimberly Brown (5-8) and freshman Anna Knapp — the coach’s daughter who is already five-foot-10.
All four starters have done so since they were freshmen, and Knapp has played enough basketball at the lower and AAU level that her experience is on par with everyone else.
“The fact that four of my starters have started since they were freshmen, that’s going to really help them this year. As freshmen, they took their lumps. But now, they have invaluable varsity experience. A lot of other schools, freshmen don’t get varsity experience, so I won’t trade that for anything,” said Knapp. “This is their time to step into their roles as upperclassmen.”
Last season, Knapp coached both the junior high AND high school squads, and six freshmen — including Anna Knapp — fill the void left by two graduated seniors.
That familiarity is already an advantage for Green.
“Six freshmen are coming in from the junior high program. I am already very familiar with these freshmen, and they can come in and run an offense better than what most freshmen do. They are acclimated already, and having the opportunity to coach them last year was definitely an advantage,” said Knapp.
However, developing depth at the varsity level will be an area of improvement as the season progresses — as Knapp said the current contingent of Bobcats only go about six or even seven deep.
“We’re not very deep, but we’re working hard trying to get there,” she said.
There are, of course, other aspects — according to Knapp — needing improving with such a youthful unit.
“We have two main scorers in Kasey (Kimbler) and Kame (Sweeney), so we are looking for more contributors for points. And kids need confidence. We’ve got to work on turnovers, because we just turn the ball over too much to my liking. And we need to turn up the heat defensively. When we step into practice every day, our two main focuses are defense and rebounding,” said the coach.
Rounding out the roster are six-foot junior Brelan Baldridge, 5-6 sophomore Kaylee Christian, and freshmen Katelinn Satterfield (5-6), Lori Brown (5-6), Makayla Laber (5-9), Alley Hensley (6-0) and Alex Smith (5-7).
In addition to the SOC I slate, in which Ironton St. Joseph joins and Eastern moves up to the larger-school SOC II, the Lady Bobcats will play Kentucky clubs Rose Hill Christian and Fairview both twice.
Green opens the season at host Manchester in the Manchester Shootout on Saturday night (Nov. 23), as the Bobcats also play Rock Hill, Hannan (W. Va.) and Raceland (Ky.).
Look for the Bobcats to compete in the SOC I, but Notre Dame is still the division queen.
“After Notre Dame, it’s a toss-up from then on. You can see us and New Boston competing in the upper half of the league,” said Knapp.
Because, as she said, these Lady Bobcats could be in for a special season.
”This team has the ability and opportunity to have a really good year,” said Knapp. “I’m excited about our prospects.”