By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
LYNN CAMP — When it comes to respect, Richard Jones’ Lynn Camp Lady Wildcats received none entering the 2012-13 season.
Many prognosticators were picking Lynn Camp as a middle of the pack team in the 13th Region All ‘A’ and a bottom of the pack team in the 13th Region.
Lynn Camp players weren’t happy with the preseason predictions, according to Jones, so he promptly told his players they needed to prove themselves — and they have in impressive fashion.
The Lady Wildcats (12-3) are off to their best start in school history and enter today’s semifinal matchup with Middlesboro as the team to beat in the tournament after upending tourney favorite Barbourville just three days earlier, 56-51.
“Let’s face it,” Jones said. “People like to look at stats and in the past with the deliberate style we played, we didn’t put up big numbers. But we decided to change some things around this year and people are beginning to notice.
“The girls weren’t happy with where they were picked at the beginning of the season,” he added. “They wanted coverage and respect and so I told them to go out there and earn it. People will give you the respect if you go out there and earn it and they have.”
Jones was quick to point out, he understood why many thought his team would struggle to compete for the 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic crown.
“I’ll be the first to say it — if I were just a fan watching us before this season, I understand where they were coming from. I told our girls that. We are off to our best start ever and now we have shown that we have some pretty good players here and we’re better than being ranked fifth in the All ‘A’. We are the team to beat.”
Lynn Camp already surpassed last year’s 10 wins a couple of weeks ago mostly because of a faster-paced offense along with an aggressive defense.
The Lady Wildcats only scored 50-plus points eight times last season while accomplishing the feat 11 times this season in only 15 games.
“We’re not the low-scoring, deliberate team any more,” Jones said. “We can pick up the pace and score better now.
One of the keys to the Lady Wildcats’ success has been the play of Kayla Smith, who continues to shine under the radar.
Smith leads the team with a 15-plus scoring average and she also turns in solid play defensively, too. Heather Wilson has been a mainstay in the post along with Jessica May. Brianna Hollin has been a pleasant surprise shooting the ball and Merita Burke is another solid versatile player for the Lady Wildcats.
“I feel confident in this team. They just want to be successful. They don’t care who scores,” Jones said. “I know we have a tough test with Middlesboro coming up. They have nothing to lose. We’ve beat them early (47-42), but they are getting better. They’ve had some players injured and they’re going to be tough to beat.
“We haven’t been this far in this tournament,” he added. “Barbourville had the target on its back and now after we beat them, we have the target. We just need to continue to play like we have been. If we can do that, I think we can win it.”