Trip to the state will be the first for Parsons
Like her players, Corbin girl’s basketball coach Jennifer Parsons, has never played or coached in the KHSAA Sweet 16. That is until this week when the Lady Redhounds will take on Shelby Valley in the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls State Tournament.
“As a player I played for Cawood and we fought Clay County in that area of time. When I was in high school they had dominant teams, so as a player nor as a coach have I been able to get to the regional championship game, but never getting the title,” Parsons said.
“I assisted at Harlan for two years under Doc Gray and it was right after they had gone to the state tournament. I have not ever been in either position as going to the state tournament, so this will be my first time as a player or coach. It has been a long time coming,” she said. “It is something that as both player and coach you practice for. You practice and play for the opportunity to get to the state tournament.”
“It’s a huge tradition in Kentucky and it’s something that as a coach you work to get to,” Parsons said. “I have had teams that I felt like have been talented enough to get there, but we have always been cut short for whatever reason.”
It has been 31 years since the Lady Redhounds have made it to the Sweet 16. Corbin was one of the first teams to play in a girls state tournament when they won the region back in 1932.
Corbin also made the trip to the Sweet 16 in 1977, 1980 and 1982.
“This has been a special group in that they have never looked behind them,” Parsons said. “They keep their focus on what is ahead and what we need to do to get there.”
“We didn’t play as good at times as we had it in us or could have, but when it come down to post-season we put our four quarters together, we put games together to be able to move on to the next level,” Parsons said.
“This group of girls have wanted it from day one,” she said. “We took two weeks off from Clay County beating us in last year’s region and we were back in open gym. They wanted to be right back in the gym. Other than the dead period and a couple of weeks off during the summer we have been at it for a year because they were hungry for this.”
“I knew it was going to be hard, but this was the type of team that had it in them and put themselves in the situation to possibly get it,” she said. “Even in post-season play I saw the hungry with each game we played,” Parsons said.
Parsons prepared her team for a state tournament run, playing in 35 games. The Lady Redhounds hosted a tough field for the Cumberland Falls Invitational with the likes of Perry Central and Bell County. They played in the Berea Lady Pirate Holiday Classic where the only loss came to state tournament entry Madison Central (40-37). They beat Estill County, Garrard County and South Laurel.
In late December, Parsons took her team to the KSA Tournament in Orlando, FL, where they faced an outstanding team from Monsignor Donovan High School out of New Jersey. They lost that game 62-55, but rebounded to beat much bigger schools such as Forrest High School from Tennessee and Pisgah, AL.
The Lady Redhounds got another boost of confidence when they beat Louisville Assumption, 54-44 in the Shoot for the Cure Classic.
“This group is truly listening,” Parsons said. “They are very coachable, they want to be better and that’s all you can ask for. For the kids to go out and do what we are asking them to do.”
“They have the passion to want to win,” Parsons added. “They are probably not the most talented group I’ve had over the 12 years, but as whole the players have understood their role. They are not trying to play above what they are playing. Everybody has understood that and I feel like their chemistry is so important. They are friends off the court and friends on the court.”
Corbin has two seniors in Holli Disney and Kristen Fothergill. “Holli has been a huge impact for us on the defensive end,” Parsons said. “Holli has had some good offensive nights, but consistently her defense inside is what we have relied on…bottom line.”
“She had big defensive games against (Sara) Evans of Harlan County, big defense against Craig of Whitley County and big defense against Arthur Taylor from South Laurel. There have been nights that we have had to have her presence and Holli disciplined herself to staying out of foul trouble,” Parsons said.
“It has enabled her to block shots or alter shots because of her presence,” she said. “That has meant a tremendous amount to our team.”
“Kristen is a role player for us,” Parsons said. “She is a senior that doesn’t start and that is OK with her. She knows her role is coming in and energizing our team. We call her our energizer bunny. She gives us a spark defensively on the floor. She is a constant motivator for our team whether she is on the bench or on the floor.”
Parsons highlighted the play of several juniors. “I feel like Sarah Ashley has played a huge role on our team,” Parsons said. “Her role has been a big factor on the success of our team. A lot of what Sarah does you might not see in a stat line or in the scoring column, but if you just watch Sarah play, she is in every loose ball, in every mix on the floor.”
“She gives you everything she’s got and she makes a lot happen,” Parsons said. “Her energy gets others on board.”
“Her composure, her poise really makes a difference out on the floor,” Parsons said.
Brooklyn Ashurst was instrumental in Corbin’s successful in reaching the Sweet 16 as she went one-on-one with Bell County’ Maci Morris in the regional final.
Ashurst stuck to Morris like glue and held the 13th region star to five points in the first half of the 63-60 Bell County win.
‘Brooklyn is another one that goes without a lot of props in the stat line because she does draw the toughest defensive assignment the teams we play,” Parsons said. “She guarded Morris in the region final, she guarded Massingill (Harlan Co.) in the semifinals and guarded Brandi Smith (Whitley Co.) in the district championship.”
“She is quick and kind stay with anybody in her region,” Parsons. “She scored on her several times because of her height, but Brooklyn pushed her laterally and had her frustrated. She is smart enough and knows the concept of the game to understand that hey it is my job to guard this one player.”
“She sacrifices some of her offensive skills knowing that is what is most important for us to win,” Parsons said.
Most of the offense goes through twin sisters, Kayla and Melanie Wilson, both juniors. Miranda has averaged 12.9 points through 35 games while Kayla is scoring at a 10.8 clip.
“They never get rattled,” Parsons said. “They keep their cool and don’t allow parts of the game to effect the next. Maybe it’s a missed shot or a turnover; they just don’t let it affect their overall game. Kayla had two turnovers in a row against Bell County and then came down against their press and hit a 3-pointer.”
“She knows there are 50 other plays that are going to happen and they just keep their composure and keep their cool,” Parsons said.
“Miranda is quiet on and off the floor and doesn’t show much emotion, but has given us that emotional factor, especially against Harlan County. You could tell she wanted that ball at the end of the game. That is the player Miranda has turned into,” she said.
“She has stepped up and been that leader for us,” Parsons said. “That has been a huge part of our success. When your point guard doesn’t get effected by the emotion of the game or the momentum of the game, if they keep their cool everyone else on the floor is going to and Miranda is that person for us.”
Sophomore Natalye Gallagher and freshmen Melanie Wilson and Jaclyn Jewell have been a good mix with the upperclassmen. “They have come in at different parts of the game and have been huge lifts for us,” Parsons said. “At different times of the game, Melanie can come in and go in that one or two spot. She always gives us an offensive boost and it seems like there is always a basket from her and she never gets rattled either.”
“Jaclyn Jewell is aggressive on defense and is a hustler. She is a lot like Ashley and Ashurst, but can give us an offensive threat as well,” Parsons said. “She is not afraid to make something happen on the offensive end.”
“Natalye’s is able to guard the post-play and did a great job against Evans in the regional and Craig in the district,” Parsons said. “She is always good for four to six points every time she comes in.”
“I feel like with the nine girls we play a lot and the ones that we can go to on the bench has made us better here in this post-season,” Parsons said. “We are not stuck with just six girls. We can move things around and have as many as ten girls out there if we need it.”
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