As the Blue Devils turn their attention to the hardwood, they have many goals in mind.
However, their first priority is a District 4-A regular season title. In order for that to happen, head coach Mike Reynolds says his team needs to be flawless at home against their district opponents.
“Our district is pretty even across the board,” he said. “Road games are always tough in this district. That’s what I always tell our kids; Our formula is, and it’s worked three times since I’ve been here, you’ve got to win all your home games and win as many as you can on the road in the district. That gives you a shot at the regular season district first place finish and a buy in the (district) tournament.”
To senior Ryan Bowlin, it’s about trying to match what his past counterparts have done.
“We’re trying to win district and region like they did two years ago,” the All-Region performer from last year said. “We just want to have a good winning season and build up the program again.”
What Jellico had done two years ago was special. Led by Cody Malicoat and Brent Ayers, the Blue Devils upset Harriman 70-68 to take the Region 2-A crown.
That region title was a first for the Jellico team.
However, in this year’s squad, Reynolds says there’s work to be done.
In Bowlin, an All-Region performer from last season, and Austin Hunley, an All-District performer, Jellico returns a lot of talent to the floor.
Bryan Hicks, a senior post player, brings four years of experience to the court as well for the Blue Devils.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Reynolds said. “Those three are ready to play. Everybody else has a lot of work, but we certainly have a lot of kids with potential. If they come along, we could be right back in the mix for our district, as we have the last few years.”
As Wartburg and the Oneida Indians are both in the mix for the district title, this race could become a close one. While the Bulldogs return Mr. Basketball finalist Alex Fountain, the Blue Devils are looking to avenge their two regular season losses to the Wartburg team.
Those two losses came at a combined four points, before Wartburg defeated Jellico in the Region 2-A semifinals, 58-46.
“Wartburg should be really good,” Reynolds said. “They won (the district) last year.
“I like our chances. I like the way we match up with them, if we can get a few kids to develop over the next few weeks.”
Jellico’s first game against Wartburg is set for Dec. 4. That following Friday, Dec. 7, the Blue Devils will travel to Corbin to face off with the Redhounds.
“That first week in December is a tough stretch,” Reynolds said.
Last season, Jellico only fell 53-52 to their Kentucky counterpart.
For Bowlin, the stretch gives his team a chance to grow in experience early in the year.
“That’s going to be one of our biggest weeks throughout our season,” he said. “You’ve got to think that Corbin is one of the top teams in the 50th district in Kentucky, and Wartburg is one of the top teams in the region. Just looking at that, it’s going to give us experience to be a better team throughout the year.”
For Jellico, it’s going to be all about defense.
According to Reynolds, the amount of constrain they can hold on their opponents will be the thriving point of the Blue Devils.
“Our biggest key is going to be how much pressure we can put on people defensively,” he said. “We’re going to be after them full court and half court. If we can create turnovers and extra possessions for ourselves, then we can have some success. If we get grinded into a half court game and have to play straight up with people at the half court, we may be in trouble.”
Jellico will open their season on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at home as Scott County comes to town.
The following Friday, Nov. 16, Grace Baptist Academy, a state tournament team from last season, will visit the Blue Devils.