By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
BARBOURVILLE — The Barbourville Lady Tigers are coming off the best season in the program’s history, having finished with a 21-11 record.
Before being knocked out of the 13th Region Tournament, the Lady Tigers were able to earn the first ever 51st District title with a 50-47 win over Lynn Camp in the championship game. The win avenged an earlier loss to the Lady Cats in the 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic.
At the end of last season, Barbourville head coach Andrea Hillard said she was pleased with her team’s accomplishments, but admitted she felt like the group could do more.
“My kids are always talking about how I’m never satisfied and that’s true to a point,” Hillard said previously. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished this season with the best win total ever for the program and the first district title, but I feel like this group can do more.”
Fast forward to June and Hillard’s squad is already in the gym getting ready for next season. Thanks to a new addition to the Hillard family, her group hasn’t been able to get as early a start as usual, but she said she knows the girls have been working hard.
“With having the baby recently I wasn’t able to get things going as early as we had in the past, but a lot of the girls were in the gym working on things on their own,” Hillard said. “That alone gives you an idea about the work ethic and the effort that these kids want to put into having another good season.
“We have been to a camp at Union College and one at Asbury College, so we’re getting things going,” she added. “We looked rough at Union because we were just getting started, but we had already improved at the Asbury camp, so I was pleased with that.”
As Hillard’s squad gets things going, the summer season has not been without obstacles. Hillard said Kelsey Erslan had to undergo surgery to remove cartilage in her knee, while a pair of defections from a previously large junior class (Tyra Bunch and Brandi Hembree) has slowed things up.
“Kelsey is a hard worker and I know she’s putting a lot of time in as far as rehabbing the knee, so she’ll get back as soon as she can,” Hillard said. “We had a few players quit from that large junior group, but if kids don’t want to work that’s fine with me.
“The kids that are in the gym have been really working hard to get better and at this time of year, that’s all you can really ask for as a coach,” she added. “Once we really get things going we’ll work on rotations and try to secure some solid bench play after we see what the kids are willing to do as far as getting better.”
Hillard said the important thing about the summer play is the fact that she’s not only trying to improve the team she has now, but she’s also trying to continue to build the program for the future. She said the success of the juniors she has returning goes a long way in encouraging younger players to put in the time needed to improve.
“We want to continue to compete at a regional level and our kids know that,” Hillard said. “Seeing the group of seniors we have this coming season is just proof that the work you put in right now will pay off down the road.
“Hopefully the young kids will continue to buy into the system and we’ll see a lot of success in the future,” she added.