LITCHFIELD — Joel Bailey led Ansley/Litchfield’s girls to the program’s first-ever state tournament appearance in 2017-18. The Spartans placed third at state and finished the season with a 22-4 mark.
Building on last year’s accomplishments will be difficult. The Spartans lost five seniors to graduation, including their top two scorers. They’ll miss point guard Alyssa Bailey, who averaged 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, four assists and 4.4 steals per game last season.
Ansley/Litchfield’s top returning scorer is 6-foot senior forward Falan Ryan. She posted 9.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, two assists and 2.2 blocks per game in 2017-18.
Kennedy Berke, Laney Stunkel, Brianna Ryan, Karlee Stunkel and Taylor Haines are also back in the fold for the Spartans.
The Spartans begin the season against Elba at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 in Elba.
Ansley/Litchfield has a new coach at the helm. Matt Drew, who went 183-61 and won two state titles at Giltner in a 10-year span, is taking over the Spartans, who posted a 12-12 record in 2017-18.
The team has three returning starters, including 5-11 senior point guard Christopher Paitz. He tallied 18 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game in 2017-18.
Justin Bailey, a 6-3 senior forward, and Jeff Cunningham, a 5-11 sophomore guard, are also be back in the starting rotation for the Spartans. Bailey averaged 12.3 points, six rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.6 steals per game last season.
One returning letterwinner to watch is 6-0 junior forward Parker LeFever, who recorded eight points and 4.3 rebounds per game off the bench last year.
The Spartans have never made it to the state tournament.
“We have size and athleticism and a good mixture of experience and youthfulness,” Drew said. “We need to understand that looking for the big play or exciting pass is not always the right decision. My style is different than last year in being a more conservative (coach).”
They begin the season against Elba at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29 in Elba.
The Spartans went 5-1 in duals last season. They also qualified three individuals for the state tournament.
Senior Seth Racicky won the state championship at 195 pounds in Class D in 2017-18.
Two state qualifiers return this season for Ansley/Litchfield in Blake Racicky, who placed sixth at 138 pounds, and Hunter Arehart, who qualified at 145 pounds.