GRC: Is there a perfect 5-peat in store for Graham’s team?

By Sawyer Broeking

Smoke Signals

It’s no secret GRC Hoops has made a name for themselves in the realm of high school girls basketball in Kentucky.

Winning eight out of the last 10 district championships and six out of the last 10 regional championships, they know how to win.

The girls are on track to do something extremely special this upcoming season as they are going for their eighth district and fifth regional championship in a row.

This is something that not many teams have been able to do. Only two teams have been able to achieve this sacred five peat in the last 50 years — Montgomery County in the early 2000s and Mason County in the 1980s.

“Last year’s team was a special one for sure,” Head Coach Robbie Graham said. “The girls just clicked, they knew what needed to be done to win.”

The Cards finished last season with a 22-10 record on the season, sweeping through the 40th District and the 10th Region.

The Lady Cards had two incredible seniors on their team last season, Kennedy Igo and Shelbi Wilson. Igo and Wilson contributed to much of the Cards’ success with Igo averaging 14.6 points per game and Wilson averaging 8.9 points.

“It’s hard filling the void of players like Igo and Wilson; they’re players that leave a lasting impact on your program,” Graham said. “This season we need players to step up and fill those big shoes.”

Although the Cardinals lost two big scorers from last year’s team, they return a lot of talent. Sophomore wing Brianna Byars and junior forward Tyra Flowers were both top three scorers for the Cards last season.

Byars averaged 12.5 points per game as a freshman, with Flowers averaging 10 points as a sophomore. Other returning Lady Cards are junior guard Trinity Gay, who averaged 6.8 points per game, senior guard Erica Berry (3.9 ppg), freshman guard Ciera Byars (2.5 ppg) and junior forward Amber Miller (1.5 ppg).

“Our focus this season like always is hard-nosed defense,” Graham said. “Getting defensive rebounds is the key to our success.”

Rebounding shouldn’t be a challenge for the Cards this year. Last season, Flowers and Byars were the team’s top two rebounders, with Flowers averaging eight rebounds per game and Byars averaging 7.2.

“Flowers and Byars have been through the storm,” Graham said. “They know what it takes to lead this team and I expect them to be nothing less than leaders.”

Graham knows how to build strong leaders within his team.

“Going into this season first and foremost our main goal is to stay safe and follow every COVID protocol, so we can continue to have a season,” Byars said. “After that we have three main goals — win district, win region and make a run at state. All my team and I want to do is continue the long tradition the women before us created.”

Growing and molding his players into the best players they can be is Graham’s specialty. With seven of his previous players currently playing collegiate basketball, he knows what it takes to prepare his girls for success.

“With my senior season starting, I just want to soak everything in and really make lasting memories,” senior guard Erica Berry said. “My defense has improved since last year, and I feel like that is something I can contribute to my team’s journey back to state. Getting back there is so important to me. I want to end on the best note possible.”

The Cards come into the season ranked ninth in the state, according to the Herald-Leader pre-season poll, and first in the 10th Region. These rankings are a recurring theme for the Lady Cards.

The Cardinals have a tough schedule ahead, playing eight top 25 teams. These teams include;  No. 4 Ryle,  No. 6 Sacred Heart, No. 10 Notre Dame, No.13 Bowling Green, No. 15 Simon Kenton, No. 20 Scott County, No. 22 Dunbar, and  No. 24 Scott High.

“We want to play the best basketball we can play in the postseason, so we play the best basketball teams we can play during the regular season,” Graham said. “Losing a few games at the beginning of the season will only help us grow and learn from our mistakes.”

“These girls are excited. They’re ready, and they’re pumped for this season,” Graham said. “Let’s make it a five-peat.”

Sawyer Broeking is a junior at George Rogers Clark High School and sports editor for Smoke Signals multimedia team.