The lost statistics are stark for North Murray boys basketball coach Tim Ellis as the Mountaineers launch their bid for a Region 5-3A title and a third consecutive state tournament appearance.
“It’s an adjustment any time you lose more than 90 percent of your scoring and 92 percent of your rebounding,” said Ellis, whose Mountaineers went 22-8 and lost in the second round a year ago, his first season as coach. “We’ll do things by committee, but we’re 12 players deep and I feel good about that.”
The committee chairmen are senior posts Omar Romero and Cody Collins, who is back on the court after deciding not to play last season — by midseason Collins regretted sitting out, Ellis said.
Perimeter firepower comes from Alex Viars, Adrian Cook, Mason Pittman, Lucas Sexton and Noah Allen, all juniors except for Allen, a freshman who is likely sidelined until Christmas due to a football injury.
Ellis will also rely on juniors Hinton McConkey and Payton Swilling and sophomore Drake McCowan once they get football out of their systems. Juniors Nathan Spivey and Seth Satterfield and sophomore Jordan Couch will contribute significant minutes as well.
“There’s no reason we can’t get back to state,” Ellis said. “Having that experience is a plus.”
For the Lady Mountaineers, talented juniors also have to make solid contributions to the effort.
Eight juniors will replace seven seniors that sparked the team’s 17-12 record and a trip to last season’s state tournament, where North Murray lost to Elbert County in the first round.
“We’ve had a taste of it,” said Lady Mountaineers coach Keith Robinette, who’s in his fourth season in charge. “Our junior class is pretty good number-wise and talent-wise. They’ve been in quality ballgames that meant something, and I think they’re hungry.”
North Murray has only two seniors, Kara Deal and Grace Phillips — the latter will become the program’s first four-year starter — and Megan Pittman and Erin Robinson, a 6-foot-2-inch post, head the junior class.
Another junior, Emma Gossage (5-11), won’t be available until Christmas due to a knee injury. Baylee Sutton, Amber Shook, Kelsey Shelton, Reilly Wright and Amber Bandy round out the class.
“These juniors are major minute-type kids that bring a lot to our team,” Robinette said.
Freshmen Hannah Long and Katelyn Crumbley have been impressive in preseason workouts, he added.
North Murray opens the season Friday when Tennessee’s Polk County comes to visit.