The Chuckey-Doak girls basketball team went through a big change in the offseason when longtime coach Beth Frye decided to retire and take an assistant coaching job at Walters State, but the Lady Black Knights did not have to look far to find a replacement.
Lisa Darnell, who was Frye’s assistant for 18 seasons, took over as the Lady Black Knights head coach during the offseason and now looks to build on the successes the program experienced under Frye.
“I love basketball, but the main reason I took the job is because I didn’t want the girls to have to go through another change,” Darnell said. “With COVID being here this year, they have had to deal with so much. This year has been challenging and I hope that I can give them a little stability.
“This has been an adjustment for me. I do miss coach Frye, but I would like to continue that tradition that she built. I hope that we can make it better and stronger than it’s ever been.”
Taking over a program during a pandemic has only added to the challenges facing the first time head coach, but the Lady Knights are handling the limited offseason and tremendous uncertainty of the upcoming season as best as they can.
“This has been a difficult offseason,” Darnell said. “We are taking temperatures daily and doing those symptom questionnaires. Then we have to figure out contact tracing if there is an issue. It has become our new normal, and we are adjusting and hoping for the best.
“We haven’t been able to do much work over the summer. We haven’t been able to condition how we normally would, and there will be some adjustments to make early in the season.”
The last two seasons have been difficult for the Lady Knights as they have won a combined four games, but they are optimistic about improving on that win total this season.
The Lady Knights will rely on a pair of talented senior post players in Gabby Carter and Earendia Davis. Each one brings something a little bit different to the position.
Carter is a 6-footer who will force opposing players to make adjustments every time they enter the lane, while Davis is a crafty scorer who can find the bottom of the net despite being undersized.
“Those two are going to be very important this year,” Darnell said. “With how limited the offseason has been we did not get much conditioning in, and that may dictate how effective they are early in the year.
“They both bring strong qualities, but they also bring different qualities that complement each other. I think that combination should be important for us.”
Because of their experience, Darnell wants to play through the post this season. She hopes that as Carter and David draw defensive attention they can open things up for their younger teammates on the perimeter.
“I’m hoping that the playing time they were forced into as underclassmen will help them now that they are more experienced,” Darnell said. “We are going to need them to step up because we do have a lot of younger girls that we are going to need them to help along.”
Chuckey-Doak’s third senior is Carolina Martin. She played as a freshman and is now rejoining the team. Darnell will count on her to be another strong leader for Chuckey-Doak.
The Lady Knights have two juniors in sisters Hannah and Breanna Roberts. Hannah will be one of Chuckey-Doak’s top outside shooters while both can play key roles because of their varied skill sets. After Carter and Davis, the sisters will be the Lady Knights’ most effective rebounders, and they can also defend on the perimeter.
Point guard Taliah Ealey is back for her sophomore season, and after learning the position as a freshman Darnell thinks the speedster can take a big step in her development this year.
“Tahlia will be our point guard again,” Darnell said. “She never played point guard in elementary school or middle school, and that was an adjustment for her. I think her game has grown a lot. She is very athletic, and she only has one speed, which is go.
“I think if we can get her to play hard when we want her to, and to back off when we want her to it will help her a lot.”
Helping with the ball-handling duties will be a pair of freshmen in Bri Lowe and Anna Lee Seaton. Darnell likes the talent both possess, but knows competing at the varsity level will be an adjustment.
Sophomore Lexi Hensley missed much of last year with an injury, but is back and healthy heading into this season.
The Lady Knights also have freshmen Hayleigh Hensley, Kylie Malone and Hayleigh Taylor. Darnell thinks all will contribute this season.
CHUCKEY-DOAK LADY BLACK KNIGHTS
No. Name Grade
1 Earendia Davis Sr.
3 Anna Lee Seaton Fr.
5 Hayleigh Taylor Fr.
10 Tahlia Ealey So.
11 Carolina Martin Sr.
12 Bri Lowe Fr.
14 Kylie Malone Fr.
20 Hannah Roberts Jr.
21 Lexi Hensley So.
22 Gabby Carter Sr.
23 Breanna Roberts Jr.
24 Hayleigh Hensley Fr.
LADY BLACK NIGHTS 2020-21 SCHEDULE
(Home games in CAPS)
Dec. 1 PROVIDENCE ACADEMY
Dec. 4 at Claiborne
Dec. 8 at West Greene
Dec. 11 CUMBERLAND GAP
Dec. 15 GRAINGER
Dec. 17 at North Greene
Dec. 21 HAMPTON
Dec. 26-31 Ladies Classic at Greeneville
Jan. 4 HAPPY VALLEY
Jan. 8 at Greeneville
Jan. 12 NORTH GREENE
Jan. 15 at South Greene
Jan. 19 at Providence Academy
Jan. 22 CLAIBORNE
Jan. 26 WEST GREENE
Jan. 29 at Cumberland Gap
Feb. 2 at Grainger
Feb. 5 GREENEVILLE
Feb. 12 SOUTH GREENE
Feb. 15 at Hampton