The Hopkinsville Tigers are coming fresh off an Eight District Championship and return a majority of that team with ambitions of doing it all over again.
Head coach Anthony Babb said with all the returners comes a number of solid underclassmen that he believes could make an impact for the Lady Tigers.
“We lost one person last year so we got a majority of our group back,” he said. “We’ve got some talented freshman and a talented eighth grader that’s come up. They’re excited, they see the hard work we’re putting in and they’re seeing the hard work you have to put in to compete every day. Everything we do is about competing. I don’t care if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior — the best people are going to play. Right now, everybody is excited and I’m excited to coach this group.”
But most importantly, the Lady Tigers are just excited to be able to play.
“I’m very excited to get back to doing what we love, and that’s playing basketball,” Babb said. “The kids have been hitting the books and getting back to what they love doing. Practice has been going well. Everybody is just excited to be here and I told them as long as we keep it up we’ll be doing fine.”
While the Lady Tigers return a bulk of their production from a year ago, Babb doesn’t want them to get complacent.
He knows there are games to be played and he is letting his kids know they still need to show up night in and night out in order to repeat as Eighth District Champions.
“We’ve got to focus, be dedicated and be committed,” Babb said. “When you come to work, you have to come ready. The work is coming to the court and playing. They’ve been doing a great job. We don’t want what happened in the region to happen again. We talk about being mentally tough. We’ve got to be mentally tough and not give up. That’s what we’re trying to instill in them.”
The Lady Tigers aren’t backing down either. A tough schedule ahead for Babb and company set them up for the gauntlet that is the postseason. Babb said he feels good about the slate coming into the year.
“Right now we’ve got 20 ball games,” he said. “We open up with Madisonville. We picked up Bowling Green again … We’ve got a pretty tough schedule. We’ve got some games in there that we have to work harder because these teams have been in the region and state tournament quite a bit. We’ve got to stay the course and stay healthy. I believe we’ll be alright.”
Health is going to be a big area for every team this year. Anybody at any time could go into quarantine and shut things down.
Babb said they already have a player in quarantine and health-wise are looking solid.
“The healthiest thing we can do is talk about social distancing,” he said. “As far as on the court, we stretch before practice and we stretch after practice to make sure we get everything stretched. We go hard for an hour and 45 minutes. We want to make sure we stay flexible.”
However, one blow to Hoptown will be the absence of Lakayla Samuel, who is recovering from a knee injury. Babb said Samuel should return to the team in February as long as the recovery goes to plan.
At the end of the day, Babb and the Lady Tigers are ready to go and know what is ahead.
“We know Henderson County is still there,” he said. “We know Webster County and Madisonville are still there — we know Christian County is still there. We got our work cut out for us. We’re going to keep working hard and we are going to work like champions. If we work like champions, we’ll be champions.”
Hopkinsville opens the season at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5 when it hosts Madisonville-North Hopkins.