Once the standard for girls basketball around the state, Mercer Christian is school is no longer a part of the WVSSAC but that hasn’t stopped the Cavaliers from competing against the best teams in the area.
Last year they reestablished themselves with matches against Summers County, James Monroe and state runner-up Wyoming East. This year, with the loss of just one starter, they’re hoping to build on what was a strong season.
“We came off of last year winning both of our conferences,” Mercer Christian head coach Jessica Patton said. “We got to play in the WVCAT and the WVCA and we did win those comfortably so our goal is to feed off last year and keep the motivation going. The goal this year is to make sure we’re incorporating as many public schools that will play us. We have eight public school games and we’ve already scrimmaged James Monroe and PikeView.
“We’ve been able to have our girls see competition. I don’t want any of them to feel pressure like they have to have a college scholarship but I want to prepare them in case they want it. I want to prepare Kayley (Trump), Karis (Trump) and Ella (Botts) in case they want it. Any of the ones that want to play after high school, they need to play against different competition that they’re capable of playing. Not only are we capable but we can come out with wins too. I want to make sure we’re not overlooking anyone either and they enjoy their high school careers.”
Playing local powers helps in working towards that goal, even if they take their lumps. The enrollment at Mercer Christian is under 100 meaning the Cavs battle schools with 300 more kids on a regular basis. That doesn’t deter them and they see it as necessary. For instance they open up with Wyoming East, a favorite to win the Class AA title this year. Patton hopes adverse games develop consistency.
“The goal is to give it a good showing,” Patton sad. “Karis can shoot the lights out and Kayley has this grit about her, Ella has the finesse and moves beyond her years. Any given night we can be respectable. We’ve just got to iron out the inconsistencies. We can’t be rocking and rolling one night and plummet out the next. We’ve got to be more consistent and even it out each game.”
Having jumped back on the public school radar last season, Patton has seen growth from her team in the past year and hopes that continues. A part of the Mercer Christian teams of the early 2000s that found success, she’s hoping to pass along what she’s learned and help spur their growth.
“Mentally is where we’ve seen the biggest growth and it’s where I’m cautious,” Patton said. “I want this to be the experience these girls need if they want to play college ball. I don’t want any pressure on them but I don’t feel like I’m doing my job if I see somebody that’s capable of doing it and I haven’t set them up for success. But we do have to play these teams. Last year we had some good wins and showings but when we’d go play Wyoming East we’d get shell shocked. I’m hoping this year will be less of a surprise.”