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Coach Gray faces a rebuilding yearFour of top six players gone from last season
Donnie Gray enters his 18th season as head coach of the Clay County Lady Tigers. During his tenure the Lady Tigers have made 12 trips to the Sweet 16, winning the state title in 1989. Last season he picked up his 400th career victory just after Christmas, in the Spencer County Holiday tournament. His career mark now stands at 413 wins and 113 losses.
Gray's Lady Tigers had an outstanding season a year ago, finishing with a 24-8 record with four of those losses to eventual state tournament runner-up, Jackson County. However the veteran coach Gray finds the 2002-03 team in somewhat of a rebuilding year after losing four of the top six players from a year ago. Gone are starters Sabrina House, Kellie Roberts and Jennifer Smith after graduation. Junior forward Whitney Sumner transferred to North Laurel.
Sisters, Amanda Gilbert and Jayme "Skooly" Gilbert are the most experienced players returning. The 5-8 Gilbert is the Lady Tigers only returning senior from last year. She is rated as on of the top players in the talent-laden 13th region after averaging nearly 11 points and seven rebounds per game last season. "Skooly" Gilbert (5-6) enters her freshman season with lots of valuable experience after starting at point guard for Gray's squad as an eighth grader. Last season she averaged 9.5 points per game and 3.1 assists a contest.
Somewhat new comer's to the program are 5-7 senior Priscilla Wagers and 5-5 junior Monica Bowling. Each is a former Miss Basketball award winner in grade school, Wagers at Manchester Elementary and Bowling at Big Creek. Both played as freshmen, but sat out last season. Gray is glad to have them back. "They are two exceptional player, I am glad to see them back on the team," Gray said.
Starting at center will likely be 5-9 sophomore Kelly Jones, who had a fine JV season a year ago. sophomore guard, Kari Ealy (5-5) is vying for a starting spot. She is one of the team's best three point threats. 5-6 freshman Jenna Wilson has been impressive in practice and should see lots of playing time this season. Other members of the 2002-03 Lady Tigers are: DeRonna Moore (5-9) sophomore; Mariah Aubrey (5-8) freshman; Kayla Dezarn (5-5) freshman; Amanda House (5-11) freshman; Paige Jackson (5-6) 8th grader; and Maleah Roberts (5-9) 8th grader.
"For us to really compete with the best in the region, we must get consistent scoring from Amanda, Jayme and Priscilla," said Gray. "The 13th (region) is loaded again this year with the likes of Jackson County, Cawood and Rockcastle, but I truly believe we're going to have a nice ball club and compete," he added. Dick Woods and Kim Jones Roberts will be Gray's assistant coaches this season.