Forgot Password

Not a Member? Sign up here!

Local Sports

New coach, familiar names set to lead Southwestern in season opener

Jason West has been around the game of basketball his whole life. Even he can admit his ascension to head coach of the Southwestern girls basketball program is unusual.

West was on fall break vacation with family and friends in Alabama the day the girls basketball season officially kicked off just over two weeks ago. He had just been hired to replace Garrett Krieg, who abruptly departed for a boys basketball head coaching position at South Adams.

The son of Hank West, a well-known name in the Shelby County basketball coaching land, Jason West played high school basketball at Shelbyville and later returned to coach the girls basketball program for four seasons.

He has spent the last two years teaching at Southwestern and agreed to become the Spartans’ junior varsity coach this season until Krieg received an offer he could not turn down.

So with six varsity practices and a scrimmage complete, West and the Spartans, ranked No. 16 in the Class A preseason poll, embark on a new season tonight at Tri.

“I remember the grind but until it hits you full force, I just didn’t have time to prepare for the grind,” laughed West.

Southwestern, 18-8 last season with a regional championship game appearance, plays eight games in November. That fast start includes a pair of home games against Class A, No. 6 Waldron on Nov. 12 and Class A, No. 3 Trinity Lutheran on Nov. 27 as well as his first return trip to Shelbyville on Nov. 19.

“This early in the season, the terminology is different but the concepts are a lot of the same things I did in Shelbyville,” said West. “I will change and let them keep some of their terminology because that helps us get up to speed.”

While West is unfamiliar to the Spartans as a coach, he is not an unfamiliar face to the program since he teaches Math at the high school and served as a frequent volunteer at athletic events.

“I will be putting things in … things I want to do as the season goes along,” he said. “We just need to do what we do and continue to improve. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will have implemented everything.”

The names returning are familiar to Spartan fans despite four seniors graduating that accounted for 43 points and 20 rebounds per game.

“Experience wise, we have game experience just not necessarily all 32 minutes of game experience,” said West.

Senior Lily Kerber averaged 5.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg last season. Her versatility will be key to Southwestern’s success.

“She can do about anything,” said West. “She hit some outside shots last year. That’s not her main shot but she can shoot from out there and hit from out there. That gives us flexibility.”

Alison Muck, a senior forward, averaged 2.7 ppg and 2 rpg last season behind her older sister, Abby Muck (12 ppg, 6 rpg).

Two more seniors, Faith Kelley and Kennedy Pile, will be counted on heavily for more production this season.

“Kerber, Pile, Muck and Kelley will all be leaders. They are all good kids,” said West.

Lilly Rooks, an accomplished cross country runner and track and field athlete, moves into the starting five this season under West. The junior averaged 2.3 ppg and 1.6 rpg in a limited role last season.

Rooks and junior McKinley Correll, younger sister of Maggie Correll (7.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg last season as a senior), will share the ball-handling role but West concedes Muck and Kerber are versatile enough to fill in as well.

The Spartans will not have a “true” center on the roster which leaves concerns about rebounding.

“That’s our biggest issue,” he said. “This season starts with us learning how to box out.”

The schedule stays busy in December with a road trip to 2A No. 2 Triton Central on Dec. 11, a boys-girls doubleheader with Lutheran on Dec. 17 and an appearance in the Edinburgh Holiday Classic, an 8-team, two-day tournament starting Dec. 21 with a game against South Ripley.

Once the tournament is complete, West will have time to break down two months of action and then put his stamp on the program before the Shelby County Tournament kicks off Jan. 6 at Waldron.

Following the county tourney, Southwestern has a road trip to North Decatur on Jan. 13 followed by a home game against Class A, No. 4 Jac-Cen-Del.

The final home game of the regular season is Jan. 25 against Brown County. The regular season concludes with a road game two days later at Greenwood Christian, who defeated Southwestern in the 2021 regional championship game.

The Class A sectional at Waldron includes both the host Mohawks and Jac-Cen-Del, two of the three teams the Spartans defeated on the way to the 2021 sectional championship.

“I’m excited to get it going,” said West. “The girls are excited to get it going.”