GOODY, Ky. — Last season was a rough one for head coach Mark Thompson’s Belfry High School boys’ baskteball squad, as they finished with an 8-22 overall record and saw their season come to an end in the first round of the 60th District Tournament with a 67-36 loss to Phelps.
The Pirates will have to deal with the loss of five or their top six scorers from last season. Canaan Fletcher (9.5 ppg), Kevin Browning (9.4 ppg), and Tyelin May (8.1 ppg), are all graduated and point guard Dezmon Roblee (10.0 ppg) is not on the team this year, but Thompson is confident in the group he has returning to the hardwood.
“I like the group that we have coming back,” Thompson said. “They play really hard. It’s a solid group, and we got some experience with kids that played some minutes for us last year. I’ve enjoyed coaching this group that I have right now.”
Junior guard Brett Coleman, who was fifth on the team with an average of 6.7 points per game a season ago, is the top returning scorer for Belfry. Thompson is also excited about Coleman’s supporting cast this upcoming year.
“I think we shoot the ball really well,” he said. “Jax (Thompson) shoots it well. Austin Hager shoots it extremely well. Caleb Spears shows great leadership all the time for us. Brett, and Tyler Chaffin has some experience and played well for us this summer. We’re going to depend on some freshmen to play some minutes for us. I like those guys and I think they’ll eventually be solid basketball players, and I’m excited about this year.”
(Jax) Thompson is the son of head coach Mark Thompson and Chaffin is a junior transfer from Tug Valley.
Thompson averaged 2.9 points per game last season while Hager and Spears, both juniors this season, averaged 1.4 and 0.8 points a contest in the previous campaign, in limited action respectively. The four of them will be leaned on heavily to replace the scorers that graduated a year ago.
Thompson usually likes to play an up-and-down, pressure-the-ball kind of style, but he hopes to return to that kind of play this year after admitting it didn’t work last year.
“We weren’t able to do that last year with the group we had,” Thompson said. “We should’ve been able to do that last year, but we just never could. That’s the way I like to play. I think it’s fun to coach, fun for players to play, fun for fans to watch. I think we have the personnel to do that. It’s going to take some time, especially as we get some football guys in shape to do that, so hopefully by mid-season we’re playing that way.”
Logan Maynard, a player that the Red and White were going to count on down low, suffered a torn ACL in soccer, but Thompson said he believes his team can make up for that loss of a post presence in a variety of ways.
“We can spread the floor and make guys come out and guard us,” he said. “We shoot it well, we’ll be tough to zone. I like the guys that we have. Brett (Coleman) can play some in the post for us, we don’t have to be big. The game has changed a lot. Losing Logan did hurt us, because he was that one inside presence that we had. We have some bigger young guys that may have to play some minutes here and there.”
The class of the 15th Region are the likes of defending regional champion Johnson Central, as well as Shelby Valley, Paintsville and Pikeville. They will all crack Belfry’s schedule once again this year.
Add in 60th District foes like Pike County Central, and reigning district champion Phelps, and the Pirates are going to be tested in most games in 2019-20 that should prepare them for postseason play.
Thompson said he thinks the schedule plays in their favor.
“It’s very home-loaded, not by design but it just kind of worked out that way,” Thompson said. “We’re hosting the 2A in the first week of January. We have district tournament here. The schedule, in terms of home-court advantage, plays in our favor. We have some good games here. We’ve got a good GW (George Washington, W.Va.) team coming here this year. We go to Knott County. We play Perry Central in the Mountain Schoolboy (Classic) and a good West Carter team, but we play everybody in the region at least once. Most of those tougher teams like Paintsville, Johnson Central, Shelby Valley, they’re here. It is a favorable schedule.”
Speaking of the Mountain Schoolboy Classic, he is high on the quality of teams that the annual tournament is going to produce this year.
“We’ve got solid teams in that,” he said. “Got a good West Carter team, got a good team coming out of Ohio and the Columbus Area, Harvest Prep. Perry Central and Shelby Valley are in it, and Sayre is coming out of Lexington, there’s a lot of good teams.”
Coach Thompson is gearing up for his 11th season on the sideline with the Pirates and his seventh as the head coach of the team. During his first four years, he was an assistant coach under former Belfry head man Randy Casey.
Thompson’s resume also includes a five-year stint at Pike Central with three coming as an assistant and two as a head coach, and before that he spent six years at Lexington’s Henry Clay High School as an assistant coach.
One thing is on Thompson’s agenda, though, which is making sure this upcoming season for BHS is better than last year. He is motivated to move things in a more positive direction this year considering how last year’s ending against Phelps in the first round of the 60th District Tournament stayed with him throughout the off-season, and he said he expects to be more successful this campaign.
“For some reason, it just didn’t come together last year,” he said. “It ended about as bad as it could end. I’m a big believer in you’re only as good as the last game you played, and the last game we played, we were bad. I’ve carried that around all summer and all through this school year and I still think about it. We wanted to approach our season differently in what we did last year, and these kids are buying in to what we need to do. I feel like the work we’re putting in is good work.”
The Pirates will open their season at home on Dec. 10 as they challenge the East Ridge Warriors in a 7:30 p.m. tip.
Thompson is accompanied this year by an assistant staff made up of David Copley, Matt Varney, Austin Stepp, Sean Hurley and Jason Cross.
Bennett West, longtime statistician at BHS, returns to the scorers table to handle the stats for Belfry basketball.