CULLMAN COUNTY – One thing that will very noticeable when watching a girls’ basketball game with a team from Cullman County will be on the sidelines. Five of the seven schools in the county are now directed by women.
Two changes were made in early summer and right after classes began in August. Scott Adams retired from Holly Pond with the Lady Broncos now under the command of his daughter-in-law, Paige Parker-Adams. Parker-Adams is known for her career under Tammy West at Cold Springs and ran the Holly Pond JV girls’ program the last couple of seasons.
Michael Oldacre called it a career at Good Hope after 16 seasons and 316 victories. His replacement is a former standout for the Lady Raiders, Amanda Shults Swann.
They join West, who has been at Cold Springs since the mid-1990s, Mary Lauren Hartline at Fairview, entering her third season, and Christian Watson at Hanceville, coaching at her alma mater for her third year.
This season will see the most women coaching girls’ basketball in the county at one time ever. Each one has impressive credentials and were players in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Parker-Adams and Swann are not the only changes in area girls’ basketball. Former Vinemont and Berry College standout Josh Hembree has taken over the Cullman Lady Bearcats with Tiffany Hinkle-Pope now directs the St. Bernard Lady Saints. Hinkle played prep basketball for Regina Jones at West Point.
Lance Lay is back for another season coaching the Vinemont Lady Eagles and John Welborn starts his third year on the sidelines for the West Point Lady Warriors.
Vinemont opens the season Monday night against New Hope in the Lady Eagles Tip-Off Tournament. Sarah Smith, Sydney Shields, Kelsey Rodgers and Leigh Smithson give the team experience coming into the new campaign.
Fairview won a school record 21 games last season in Hartline's second year at the 5A school on the east side of the county. The Lady Aggies visit Arab Tuesday and have quality starters returning in Taylor Yeager, Abby Schnittker, Abbi Taylor, Jada Golden and McKinna Yearwood.
Hembree, who coached varsity girls the past six years at Darlington High School in Rome, Georgia, will take his first Cullman Lady Bearcat squad to Decatur Tuesday for the opener.
The Lady 'Cats lost Christian Skinner and Taiya Ponder to graduation, but Hembree has game time experience from the likes of Anna Bowden, Anna Evans, Victoria Barker, Sierra Easterwood and A.K. Eastman.
Hinkle-Pope coaches her first game at St. Bernard on the floor of the Fazi-Richard Athletic Center Tuesday vs. Athens Bible School. Anna Myers, Jaden Edge and Avy Whaley bring the unit experience and will look to blend their skills with an eighth grader, four freshmen and four sophomores.
Hanceville faces Fairview Thursday to open the season. The Lady Bulldogs will be without All-County performer Taylor Hollingsworth, who is now playing at Wallace State Community College.
Watson will look for Karmen Johnson, Kaela Hall, Desi Hackney, Malia Howell and Brooke Bennett, who played last season, to utilize their talent and continue to be a competitive program; they missed the area finals last season by a 2-point loss in double overtime to Susan Moore.
Welborn and his Lady Warriors go to Vinemont for the opener on Thursday. West Point is experienced with Bailee Yearwood at point guard, Lillie Burdette at guard, Olivia Ball at guard-forward and Madison Roberts at forward.
Late in last season, Welborn pulled up Alexia Shaddix from the middle school team, with Shaddix only in the eighth grade going into this season. Mackenzie Carter will provide the team depth on the front line, and is only a freshman.
Two other freshmen with varsity playing experience will be a plus to the Lady Warriors. Miriam and Micah Oldacre, the twins from Good Hope, transferred to West Point before school began and give this team plenty of talent with six of its members sophomores or younger.
Holly Pond's first team for Parker-Adams features sharpshooting Ruth Horton, Taylor Tankersley, Presley Marks and Haley Higginbotham, who all provided positives for the team a season ago. Holly Pond lost Melissa Clingman and Molly Gambrill to graduation, aside from Scott Adams retiring after eight seasons with three county championships and two berths to the Class 3A state title game.
The Lady Broncos will go to New Hope Thursday for the opener and host West Point next Tuesday.
Despite changes in the coaching ranks and the losses of the Oldacre twins and Kaylee Maddox, who graduated and is now playing volleyball at Wallace State, Good Hope does have experience for coach Swann, with freshman point guard Kelly Pickett to be the catalyst for the Lady Raiders.
Senior Sadie Abbott gives them a hard working effort on the forward position. The concern is when center Kate Kent will be available. Kent suffered a foot injury early into the volleyball season and was in a boot for much of the fall.
Freshmen Kyler Hembree played on the front line a season ago with McKailey Speegle, Leyton Seal and Ericka Woodall to give the team depth in the guard and forward positions.
Good Hope will visit Danville Friday in the season opener.
Cold Springs is idle this week and will tip off the season next Tuesday at Jesse George Gymnasium against Vinemont.
West is delighted to have back one of the top players in north Alabama in 2A All-State guard-forward Emme Willoughby. Willoughby has committed to play at Alabama-Huntsville.
Camryn Crider joins Willoughby with valuable playing experience and is only a sophomore. Prisca McAnnally, Aubrey Negron will be looked upon in the forward position with plenty of good guard play coming from Kinley Campbell, Kelsey Johnson, Neely Ellison and Sadie Terry.
Elizabeth Hill, a 5'11" freshman, transferred into Cold Springs during the summer from John Carroll High School in Birmingham. West will look to put her on the floor immediately as Cold Springs will remain a team to be reckoned with, following the loss of Bailee West, Rilee White and Kaleigh Merring to graduation.
This season, West Point is hosting a Thanksgiving tournament for the first time with Cold Springs and Hanceville coming to Jim Boyd Gymnasium Nov. 21-23.
Fairview, Holly Pond and Good Hope are back in the Danville Thanksgiving Classic. It begins on Nov. 19 and will continue on the 23rd and 25th.
The Cullman Tribune wishes all of the local teams the very best in 2016-17 season and is ready to provide plenty of high school basketball coverage between this week and the end of February.
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