, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

June 20, 2014

A bigger sting is expected: Hilldale girls ready for loftier goals

The gym may be a June-type of sweaty, but the air is different.

After a 17-9 last year, a record unseen since the 1991-92 team won 18 games, the Lady Hornets went 19-8 in 2013-14.

The 1 1/2 game difference is much more than that.

Hilldale reached the Class 4A area consolation finals and it took Fort Gibson, the two-time champion, to stop their postseason charge.

While the 15-point outcome wasn’t all that close, the smell of a state tournament berth was more definite than Hilldale has ever experienced.

With all but one starter back, the expectations aren’t going away.

“We’ve had a good summer so far,” Hensley said. “We’re getting better at playing together. I always want to focus on defense in the summer, defensive schemes and tactics to help you grow together as a team and I’ve been really pleased so far. We’ve gone to Ada for a camp and had our own team camp and we’ve held our own against some really good programs.”

Hilldale returns two All-Phoenix players in Katie Kirkhart and Kenzie Mize, both averaging double figures in scoring.

“We’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” Hensley said. “When we were out west, people knew who Katie was and people knew who Kenzie was and if they didn’t, they were trying to find them.”

A few weeks ago, Hensley singled out another player in a distinctively positive way, his senior captain, Casady Mills, with this comment: “As she goes, we go.”

That might seem strange, given the opponent awareness of the other pair, but Hensley said it wasn’t a misstatement.

“Casady has been here as long as I have,”  the fourth-year coach said. “Of course those other two are key but Casady has done her part. She’s started all four years and she’s pretty much the leader of the team and she commands the respect of the other girls. They look up to her.

“She’s only a couple points off their average but the kind of thing that impresses me most about her was, just as an example, the regional consolation game against Muldrow.  We’re up 12-15 points and Katie got into foul trouble early in the third quarter and I had to take her out. I knew the instant I did that that Muldrow would press and try to rattle us. They’re not used to not getting to area. But Casady came in and scored like 18 points. It made me think we can save Katie’s legs with that kind of effort.”

It’s an effort, Hensley said, that’s encompassed the entire team.

“It’s a testament of hard work and a competitive attitude,” he said. “The girls have really developed and made strides. I know they’re now confident in their abilities as a team.”

The team won’t have any more organized activities outside of Summer Pride until the season opens later this fall.

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