RIPLEY – Head coach John Kennedy’s 2015-16 Ripley Viking girls basketball team may not have made it to the big dance, but that doesn’t mean their season wasn’t a success. Ripley doubled their win total from a year ago, finishing with a 14-9 record, an impressive feat for a program that is still in its growing stages in Kennedy’s second year. The success of 2015-16 is made even more impressive when you consider how far the program has come in such a short time.
“The end starts a new beginning for us,” Kennedy said, “It was a great season for the Lady Viking Basketball program. The lumps we took last year paid off big time this season. This season was the best in the last six years at Ripley High.”
Expectations were indeed raised after returning four starters to the 2015-16 Vikings and that returning experience paid dividends early. Ripley reeled off four straight wins to open the season, closing out the first month of the regular season 7-1. This stretch also included a dominant performance in the inaugural Viking Holiday Hoops tournament, which saw Ripley claim the championship after wins over Pt. Pleasant and East Fairmont.
As the season rolled into January, the heart of Ripley’s conference schedule showed its teeth. Four straight losses to state ranked opponents–George Washington, Huntington, St. Albans and South Charleston, three of which made the state tournament–welcomed Ripley to the new year. The Vikings quickly righted the ship, winning seven of their next ten to take them into the postseason.
A three-seed in the sectional tournament meant a trip to The Hill for another matchup with GW. A game effort was not enough for the Vikings, as the Patriots got the victory to end Ripley’s season. Despite the loss, Kennedy wanted his team to take stock of what they accomplished during the season.
“It’s time for everyone to take some time off, reflect and regroup for next season,” Kennedy said, “The girls need to be proud of what their efforts got them this year.”
As a team, the Vikings finished with a 43.1 field goal percentage on the year, scoring 1193 points total.
Individually, Ripley was led by senior center Audra Thomas. Thomas capped off her final season in the blue and white by averaging 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. She pulled down 214 rebounds total and blocked nine shots.
“Audra is going to missed by all,” Kennedy said, “She’s been a two year starter for us. That’s going to be hard to replace. We must have some other girls step up for us in the offseason to try and fill her shoes.“
Sophomore Maggy Criser was next, averaging 9.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 3.6 assists per game. Criser also led the team in blocked shots with 14 and pulled down the second most rebounds with 111. Ripley’s other two returning starters, sophomores Presley Fisher and Lexi Miller, made large contributions on the year. Miller averaged 7.8 ppg and led the team in three pointers made with 27, despite missing much of the second half of the season with a foot injury. Fisher really came on in the late stages of the season, finishing the season averaging 7.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg. Freshman point guard Taylor Kennedy averaged 3.2 ppg and 2.5 apg in her first year running the offense.
Ripley also received huge boosts off the bench from a solid mix of rookies and veterans. Junior Jeri Patterson once again served as the team’s defensive specialist, often tasked with locking down the opposition’s best player. Sophomore Kenzie Casto was also a factor in the paint, averaging 2.7 rebounds per game off the bench. Additionally, freshmen Tessa Ray (1.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, seven blocks), Jaelyn Hunt (3 ppg, 14 total three point baskets) and Ceirra Richardson (2.8 ppg, 1.4 apg) all made great strides during the season. Other contributors for Ripley in 2016 were: sophomore Keston Smith (2.2 ppg), junior Anna Kimble (1.8 ppg) and freshman Jadyn Simmons (4 ppg.)
“Even though we lose our leading scorer, we should have four starters coming back next year,” Kennedy said, “It’s going to make it extremely hard for our opponents to match us up.”
With the success of the 2016 season, Kennedy and the rest of his team know that with results comes even higher expectations–and attention.
“Things aren’t going to get any easier for us next year,” Kennedy said, “Our team can’t hide under the radar anymore. We were invited to play at Glenville State next year in a shootout against two currently state bound teams. Also, we are waiting to hear who our opponents are in a couple other shootouts. Each and every one of these girls know what they have to do in the off season for us have continued success.”
“We would like to thank everyone who has helped our program this year,” Kennedy concluded, “From running the concession stand, moms buying and cooking team dinners, getting us on the radio (Tom Hunter), our administration for all the behind the scenes activities and extra hours they put in, the community for their continued support and Jackson County Newspapers (Brian Harper, Greg Matics & Staff.)”