Coach Kennedy has high hopes for Ripley Lady Viking basketball team in 2021-22 season

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers

The expectation for Ripley girls basketball will always be to play in the state tournament.

It is something John Kennedy is ready to see happen.

Kennedy was the point guard for the Ripley Vikings of 1996 who made school history by becoming the first (and to date, only) team to reach the state tournament.

As a coach, he wants to experience the moment with his players.

John Kennedy has his latest Ripley Lady Viking girls basketball team off and running. Kennedy is a former Viking point guard, who helped the school make history with a trip to the state tournament in 1996.

He's excited about this season.

And happy things got started on time this year, after a lengthy COVID-19 delay for the 2020-21 campaign. 

Leaders for Ripley heading into the new campaign are junior McKennan Hall and sophomore Sophie Nichols.

“They are a couple of gym rats,” Kennedy said. “Six days a week they are getting up shots. They take time on their own all the time to get up shots. The chemistry those two have is unbelievable.

“They both want to win so much. They don’t want to lose a game. They are great examples of what work does for you. They are committed to the program.”

Kyanah Baldwin is a senior leader and a player Kennedy will count on heavily this season.

Baldwin is an outstanding athlete.

Rounding out the starting lineup this season are two more sophomores in Morgan Shanklin and Erin Ryan.

“Shanklin brings you intangibles. She has been rebounding with authority. Erin doesn’t know how good she can be. She has a great basketball IQ,” Kennedy said.

Sophomores Corbin Casto, Ellie Hosaflook and Lydia Greathouse will be key contributors.

Hosaflook, an outstanding runner who earned Class AAA All-State in cross country for a second straight year, is an excellent guard.

Casto is called “a jack of all trades” by Kennedy. “She can play the three, the four or the five (positions),” according to the Lady Viking leader.

Greathouse can play shooting guard or small forward.

Freshman Addi Morrison is a player Kennedy says has “skill and athleticism.”

Xiemena Maya is the team’s other senior.

Jillian Butler rounds out the sophomore class.

“She gives you all the effort in the world,” said Kennedy.

Other freshmen on the squad are Camdymn Staats, Kallie McCutcheon and Samantha Varney.

Kennedy knows the road to being one of Class AAA’s state tournament teams won’t be an easy one.

“Our section is tough with Winfield, Nitro and Point Pleasant,” he said. “Then the region has Logan, Wayne, Winfield, Lincoln County, Huntington St. Joe and Scott.”

Ripley will face all of those teams during the regular season with the exception of Huntington St. Joe.

And while the journey will be filled with stern tests, the Lady Viking head coach and his players are ready for the challenge.

“Our expectation is to be playing in the state tournament," Kennedy said. 

And when he talks about doing so, John Kennedy means this coming March.