By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
The Whitley County Lady Colonels have lived up to their preseason expectations and are at or near the top on a lot of publication’s 13th Region rankings — and they should be.
The Lady Colonels are 12-4 on the season, which includes wins over defending 13th Region champion Clay County, Corbin, Lafayette, South Laurel and Casey County, but they’re not finished.
Larry Anderson’s squad is hoping to send their coach out with his first-ever 13th Region championship and the program’s first since 1985 when the Lady Colonels went on and captured the state crown.
“I think we are in there with three or four teams that have a shot at winning the region,” Anderson said. “The girls are really playing well, but we also know we have some tough games ahead of us. We’ve got a lot of big games coming up.
“You know Clay County is going to be there in the end along with Corbin, who had a big win against Clay and Assumption and then you have Harlan County and Bell County. It’s going to be interesting.”
Whitley County made some noise in the region before Christmas break by going to Clay County and picking up a 58-55 win thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Brandi Smith, which snapped Clay County’s 61-game 13th Region win streak.
The Lady Colonels picked up another big win just this past week against red-hot Corbin. They went on the road and handed the Lady Redhounds a 76-67 loss, as Smith poured in a season-best 33 points.
“There are wins that you have during the season that you go back to and can say they were important and helped in a certain way,” Anderson said. “The win against Corbin was a big one for us. We were in a hostile environment and Corbin battled back a number of times before our girls pulled it out.”
Now with a tough part of the season ahead, Anderson hopes his squad can continue to play like they have without the services of Kandice Craig and Hallie Jones.
Both players are out with injuries with Craig scheduled to come back in February while Jones should be back in action by the end of January.
“Losing both of them has been hard,” Anderson said. “The big thing is that we’ve got to have other people step up and we’ve had that so far.
“Brandi Smith has really picked her game up another level,” he added. “She played really well for us against Corbin. She hit some key shots and we were able to come away with a win.”
With that said, Anderson hopes his team can keep it up with games against South Laurel, Williamsburg and Harlan County on the horizon.
“We’ve got some tough games ahead, so we just need to continue to play well and see what happens,” Anderson said.