Sports Buzz: Lady Cards’ Present Builds Program’s Future
Published 7:00 am Friday, February 25, 2022
In Illinois, 7th and 8th graders aren’t allowed to play on high school athletic programs, and it’s quite rare to see freshmen and sophomores primarily do so.
As a result, when George Rogers Clark High School Girls Basketball Coach Robbie Graham first mentioned to me in the preseason that he was bringing up a few such players, my initial thought was that he was speaking in a future tense.
As I found out in a hurry, the future came sooner rather than later.
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The Lady Cards have no doubt had the good fortune this year of being gifted with senior talent in Asja Garrard, Amber Miller, and Tyra Flowers, a commit to the University of North Alabama.
Not to mention, junior talent in Brianna Byars has been key to the Lady Cards’ success.
Yet, it’s in their youth that the future continues to beam brightly.
Their two youngest players – 7th grader Kennedy Stamper and 8th grader Jaylynn Goodwin – have seen regular playing time so far this season.
Stamper, a point guard, is a starter for the Lady Cards’ 27-2 squad. She has displayed excellent range from the three-point line, shooting four for 5 from downtown for 12 of her 15 points in a victory over McLean County this December.
Her best might have been saved in a pivotal rematch against Paris while in Greyhounds territory.
The Lady Greyhounds were coming off nine wins in their last ten games, with only a loss two weeks earlier to the Lady Cards during this stretch. Naturally, they were hungry to redeem themselves, and showed it by playing tough and aggressive defense during the first half.
However, it had no effect on Stamper.
By making a trio of three-pointers, Stamper’s nine first-half points accounted for one-third of the combined scoring offense for the Lady Cards during the first and second quarter. They would go on to a convincing 51-24 win.
In the first game against Paris a few weeks prior, it had actually been Goodwin who put her mark on the game.
During a contest in which the Lady Cards were held to just 15 points over the second and third quarter
before finding their offensive groove en route to a convincing 50-31 victory, Goodwin nailed a three-pointer early on, and followed it up with two more baskets.
Finishing as the second-leading scorer in the contest with seven points, momentum could’ve been quite different heading into the 4th quarter without Goodwin’s efforts.
Yet Stamper and Goodwin aren’t the only notable names who make up the bench for GRCHS.
In fact, it could easily be argued that the bench as a whole is reason enough for a lot of confidence.
At the junior varsity level, the Lady Cards put together an impressive 14-game winning streak this year, demonstrating plenty of reasons for excitement in the years to come.
Helped out with leadership from the likes of juniors Brook Taylor and Isabella Chirico – daughter of GRCHS Head Football Coach Joe Chirico – they were able to do this largely on the strength of underclass players.
Sophomore Makili Tabor, a solid defender, has been counted on as a reliable member of the second- team.
In a narrow, one-point loss to Tates Creek early in the year, she helped keep the team in the game by tying for the lead with 7 rebounds. She also was the lone non-starter to find the scoreboard in a narrow 62-61 overtime win against Southwestern.
Freshman Maddie Settles and KeAsia Parker have been keen to shine during their moments – as they did by adding points in the Lady Cards’ first playoff game in the District Tournament against Bourbon County.
And, of course, no mention of the Lady Cards’ underclass success would be complete without bringing up freshman Ciara Byars, sister of the aforementioned Brianna Byars.
An upcoming star in her own right, Byars has already attracted college attention and was named Player of the Year by 10th Region Media. In her most recent contest, she put up a season-high 35 points to lead the Lady Cards to victory over the Montgomery County Lady Indians in the 40th District Championship final.
It’s a debate every night which of the two Byars sisters will outscore the other!
With the playoffs continuing, the clear focus for the Lady Cards will be on the here and now – as they look to reclaim the 10th Region Title after a loss to eventual champion Bishop Brossart in the semifinal matchup last season.
However, for the future, it appears that the program who’s been routinely ranked in the top-tier of Kentucky high school girls’ basketball isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Sports Buzz is written by Matt Cizek.