King eyes second straight postseason berth
BRISTOL, Tenn. – After improving its final record by nine games a season ago and earning the school's first-ever berth in the Conference Carolinas Tournament, the King University women's basketball team will look to build upon last year's 14-13 overall record and make a second consecutive postseason appearance under third-year head coach Josh Thompson.
The Tornado recorded all five of their wins in conference play in Thompson's first season at the helm. But the team's fortunes reversed during the 2012-13 season with ten conference wins and the first postseason berth since a seventh-place finish at the 2010-11 NCCAA Tournament. The Tornado closed the season with a narrow 67-61 loss at conference champion Limestone College.
"Expectations, I think last year we proved that we can give everybody a good game, even the top teams that we can compete," Thomson stated. "For us to make the next step we have to prove that we can beat the top teams. I think we only had one win against the top-four teams in the conference last year, and that's what really has to get us over the hump, we have to win some of those games and prove that we can do that."
The Tornado lost four players off last season's squad, including point guard Brooke Johnson who started 26 of the 27 games in which she appeared. However, Thompson returns solid core, including three of the top five scorers, the top three rebounders, and the two most prolific shot blockers, will be expected to fill key roles this season
Junior forward Bonnie Durrett's 10.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest were tops on the team. She led the Tornado in scoring in seven games and in rebounds 18 times, scored at least 10 points on 15 different occasions, and was 36th nationally with 11 double-doubles. Her 19 rebounds against Limestone in the Conference Carolinas Tournament are believed to be the most in a single game since Rebekah Wilson's 23-rebound performance in 2003 against Berea College.
Durrett is joined by fellow junior Chelsea Bowling, a guard from Elizabethton, Tenn. Bowling was King's second-leading scorer last season, scoring 8.6 points per game. She led the team and was fourth in Conference Carolinas in three-point field goal percentage, shooting at a 37.2 percent clip. Bowling reached double figures in scoring on 10 occasions and tallied 25 steals on the year.
Senior forward Kelly Jackson led the Tornado in field goal percentage in 2012-13 by making 43.3 percent of her attempts. She scored 8.0 points per game, the third-highest average on the team, and was tied for the team lead with 1.1 steals per contest. She also dished out 1.4 assists per game and scored in double figures nine times.
A native of Newport, Tenn., junior center Alley Sprouse will bolster the Tornado inside. Sprouse was a defensive presence in the middle last season, ranking 20th in Division II last season with 2.2 blocks per game, swatting away four or more shots in a game on six different occasions, and totaling 57 total rejections for the season. She shot 41.6 percent from the field and pulled down 5.3 rebounds per game.
Tia Keitt is a junior guard who is expected to become a solid contributor this season. Averaging just 14.0 minutes per game last season, Keitt shot 46.2 percent from three-point range, collected 38 rebounds, and dished out 25 assists.
A solid group of newcomers will join the returning Tornado players to round out this year's team. The Tornado will welcome nine freshmen to the team's ranks to fill out the roster.
King opens the season on Thursday at University of Pikeville with tipoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m. King's home open is on Saturday when they face Carson-Newman University at 5:00 p.m. in the Student Center Complex. The Tornado open Conference Carolinas play on the road at Erskine College on December 4 before hosted Lees-McRae College on December 7. The Conference Carolinas Tournament "final four" will be played at Cabarrus County Convention Center in Concord, N.C. on March 5-6.