By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will open practice Wednesday, Oct. 30, in the school gym.
Both teams will start off with the varsity and JVs practicing together. The men’s team will not have all of its players until football and soccer seasons ends. Both the men and women will be waiting for cross country runners to come out following their season.
The women will practice at 3:30 p.m. on the first day with the men practicing at 5:30 p.m.
The season will open Nov. 26 at home against Tuscola.
The women are coming off a 16-11 mark and reached the third round of the state 2-A playoffs.
“I feel OK about what we’ve got returning,” said Coach Ollin Dunford of the Lady Mustangs. “I’m excited about what we got out of the summer league. We got to see a lot of things, and I saw us get better. That’s something to grow on. The girls are excited about the open gyms we are having. I feel we are going to be as competitive as we were last year.”
Junior Natalie Parris is the lone returning all-conference player from a team that tied for first place in the Mountain Six Conference. It marked the fifth straight year the Lady Mustangs won at least a share of the league title.
The squad also lost to graduation three all-conference selections, including league player of the year Shea Sutton.
Other returning players Dunford said have been attending fall workouts include seniors Lucy McRae, Aubrie Miller, Kevonna Tushka and Erin Moore.
Junior Kyra Fowler, who was all-conference as a freshman, missed most of last season with a hip injury and remains sidelined indefinitely.
A home scrimmage with Rabun Gap, Georgia is set for Nov. 7 , with a scrimmage planned at Highlands on Nov. 12. Both will be for varsity and JV and will start at 5:30 p.m.
The men were 16-9 a year ago. Mitch Wike is the only returning all-conference player for the Mustangs.
“We had great off-season workouts,” Coach Adam Phillips said. “I’m very excited. This is the most experience I’ve had coming back. I know they are excited too.”
A home scrimmage with Mitchell is set for 5 p.m. Nov. 12. Phillips is working on scheduling a scrimmage with West Henderson.
While there could be some changes because of football playoffs and exams, the schedule as it stands now is as follows:
Nov. 26 – Tuscola.
Dec. 3 – at Erwin; 6 – at Madison; 11 – at Roberson; 12 – Madison; 17 – at Swain; 18 – Roberson; 20 – at Robbinsville; 30 – Rabun County, Georgia; 31 – North Henderson.
Jan. 3 – Robbinsville; 7 – at Pisgah; 10 – Hendersonville; 13 – Swain; 15 – at Tuscola; 17 – at East Henderson; 21 – Franklin; 24 – Pisgah; 28 – at Brevard; 31 – at Hendersonville.
Feb. 4 – Brevard; 7 – East Henderson; 11 – at Franklin.