By SCOTT WILSON
Glasgow Daily Times
For the past couple of years, the Barren County High School Trojans have been a team on the rise. With a very young team last season, BCHS battled valiantly each and every night on the floor and the junior-dominated squad represented themselves very well. However, this season, things have changed. The Trojans return everyone from a team that went to the regional tournament last season and instead of doing the hunting . . . this season, Barren County is being hunted.
“I think the biggest thing we focused on this summer, coming out of last year, was that we wanted to continue to improve. We have everyone back, but we didn’t want our players to be content with the fact we do have everyone back,” said Barren County coach Warren Cunningham. “I think we made a lot of progress over last couple of seasons. We just don’t want to be content with where we’re at.
“This year, we’re not going to sneak up on anyone. There is a big difference between doing the hunting and being the hunted. Last year, we were doing the hunting. This year, having people believe you’re the team to beat, it leaves you with less room for a letdown. You’re going to get everyone’s best shot every night. We surprised some people last year and that won’t be the case this year. You just hope your kids understand that.”
Cunningham will get a chance to see how well his team does understand on Tuesday, Nov. 27, when the Trojans open the year at Green County. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Much like last year, the Trojans won’t play with a dominant post player. Therefore, Barren County will likely go with five guards on the floor every game. And the key to the BCHS engine is point guard Barrett Billingsley.
“Barrett was a huge key for us last year, yet he was our fifth or sixth leading scorer. That’s because he did such a good job distributing the ball, getting people where they needed to be,” said Cunningham. “This year, I think he’s gotten better at finishing and getting to the basket. He’s a pass-first point guard and, with this team, that’s what we need because he’s surrounded by guys that can make plays.”
And some of the guys surrounding Billingsley will be Clay Simmons, Charlie McCoy, Jaucoby Poore and Dalton Bush.
“All of them are perimeter players, but they may move inside sometimes. So many of these guys can do a lot of different things,” said Cunningham. “They can shoot it a little bit, they can drive and they can make plays. For us to be good, that’s what it is going to be about. All the scoring is not going to all come from one spot. We have to have balance where teams can’t focus on stopping one or two players.”
And with that type of team, Cunningham believes the pace of the game could pick up this season.
“We want to continue to get up and down the floor this year because that best fits our personnel. We have guys that can make plays in the open floor,” Cunningham relayed. “We can get some easy baskets that way and when you don’t have a lot of post players, you want to score a lot in transition.
“A big key for us is that everyone understands that for us to be successful they have to understand we have a chance to be good, but it is not about anyone person, it is because of our team. When we put the parts together, with everyone pitching in, we have the chance to be good.”
And the likely players to come off the bench this year for the Trojans include: Matthew Bunnell, Kyle Marr, Bo Hubbard, Ben Leftwich, Zach Mabe and Sawyer Matthews.
“I feel comfortable going nine deep this year, maybe. Last year, we got it around seven players deep, but I am more confident now in our depth,” Cunningham said. “Bo Hubbard could really be a factor for us this year. He’s improved a lot over the summer and I believe he could be one of those guys that contributes 15 points a game and pulls down 10 rebounds. Another guy is Matthew Bunnell, who started some games last year. He can do a lot of things for us.
“Then Ben Leftwich and Kyle Marr, two juniors who contributed off the bench for us last year could have an impact. I think they’ve continued to improve and feel more comfortable when they’re in the game now. This year, I think they can be very productive for us.”
And Cunningham hopes that production is very evident in district play, when the Trojans battle three teams Cunningham considers some of the best in the region. The Trojans’ coach said Barren County is in for a fight every time they line up for a district battle.
“There is a lot of balance in this district. Glasgow is going to shoot the ball well, get up and down the floor and probably, I would think, would be more guard oriented. That’s a complete opposite of their team last year,” Cunningham remarked. “From a basketball prospective, I think they will be harder to guard this year than they were last year.
“Monroe County is an upcoming team in our region. They’ve always been a tough out for us whenever we play them. They fight you tooth and nail. And Allen County, they lost their two best scorers from last year; however, they always find a way to be in the mix. At tournament time, it doesn’t matter who you play of those three teams, you’re always going to get someone’s best shot. It should a lot of fun this season.”