Junior varsity helps to steer Lady 'Clones in right direction

By Allen LaMountain

ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   It's hard to imagine that just two seasons ago the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones basketball program was in shambles. Little talent and even less enthusiasm left little room for head coach Mike Wilson to feel optimistic.
   But today, the Lady Cyclones are strong as ever and a lot of credit has to go to the junior varsity program of head coach Harry Farthing.
   "It's really that the feeder programs from T.A. Dugger and the Elizabethton Twisters have been so successful," said Farthing. "The talent level has gotten so much deeper -- especially in the seventh and eighth grade programs at Dugger -- that it has made us better across the board."
   Farthing's JV Lady Cyclones have shown all season that they have as much talent as any JV squad in the Watauga Conference as they have been at or near the top all season.
   The JV Cyclones stand 11-2 WC and 13-3 overall, and despite a 49-36 thumping at the hands of Volunteer on Tuesday, have accomplished a lot this season.
   "It's important to establish fundamentals at this level," Farthing said. "You need to instill a winning attitude at the same time, so it's kind of a fine line. You want to see incremental growth in the fundamentals while hopefully continuing to win games."
   Some players -- like Valnessha Redd, Whitney Bishop and Valerie Kauffeld -- get playing time in every varsity contest so Farthing is limited in how many quarters he can play these girls in JV contests.
   "In a game like tonight where we got thumped, Volunteer used nearly their entire varsity on JV," Farthing said. "I don't have that luxury, but the girls that I can play all four quarters are good enough to win with against almost anybody in our region."
   A solid cast of future Lady Cyclone varsity players begins with post Takisha Avery, of whom Farthing said, "Kisha is getting better and better in the post. She's learning how to use her size to her advantage and is developing some post moves."
   Another player Farthing is high on is Eden Treadway, who at first was used in the post due to her height, but Farthing said of late that: "We are starting to see how we can use Eden differently. She is a good pure shooter. She can fill it from three-point range and we feel that we'll get a lot more from her at the wing spot."
   Farthing also has youth on his squad with five freshmen, two sophomores and three juniors, but with that youth come youthful mistakes.
   "That's what separates a varsity player from a JV player is that you have to have confidence that they will make good decisions on the floor," said Farthing. "We're getting better. The juniors we have play a lot of varsity and Bishop, Kauffeld and Ashley Trivette will all compete to be varsity starters next year."
   With a solid class graduating from T.A. Dugger coming in next year Farthing feels that EHS would be served by having a freshman squad next year.
   "Michaela Pietrowski and Marti Bush will both be solid players," said Farthing. "But they will still be just freshmen next year and the five (freshmen) we have now that will be sophomores so it bodes well for the future. But for those girls to become better players they have to play and a freshman team might be the best way to go.
   "We have a lot of support from administration here, but it's still up in the air as to whether we'll field a freshman team or not."
   EHS has one of the best problems a program can have in that it has a good varsity team, with a solid JV squad and top-notch talent coming up from the junior high ranks.
   "On varsity we'll only graduate three players," said Farthing. "The rest will be juniors and sophomores, so our program is on very solid ground right now. As good as we are now I think we have the potential to be even better next year.
   "If Kisha shows she can handle the post it will give us a solid inside game, with her and Brandi Forbes as well as Valnessha, who has been improving her post up game all the time. I'm excited about the possibilities."
   Farthing gives a lot of credit to the Twisters youth basketball program as well for the infusion of enthusiasm and talent.
   "It has been vitally important," he said. "A few years ago we were at the bottom of the league. At Dugger we could never get past Vance or Unicoi County, but the Twisters program gets kids playing experience two years before they get to junior high.
   "It gets them good coaching and an introduction to the fundamentals so that when they get to Dugger they know how to play and the improvement we have seen at all levels can be traced to it."