BRADFORD — When former Bradford girls basketball coach Patrick McKee left the school district to take an administrative position at another school, the Railroaders didn’t have to look far for a coach.
Bradford native Chris Besecker was on the staff.
And it would be hard to find a more qualified candidate.
Besecker is the all-time winningest coach in Covington girls basketball history, with a record of 344-181 in 23 years as the Lady Buccs coach. That included four 2o-win seasons.
And Besecker, who has been on the staff at Bradford for the last six years as varsity assistant and eighth grade coach the last two years, said the decision was an easy one.
“I was ready to be a varsity coach again,” Besecker said.
And he said the decision was an easy one for one reason.
“Really, it was the girls,” Besecker said. “I was a varsity assistant when Bianca (Keener) was a freshman and sophomore and I coached the rest of the girls in junior high the last two years. It is a great group of girls and they are a lot of fun to be around.”
Bradford has just 11 girls out for basketball this year, so they will not have a JV team.
And while the Lady Railroaders are young, they are not lacking for talent.
The sophomores were 19-0 as eighth graders, while the freshman were 17-2 as eighth graders last year.
“I think we can be real good at some point this year,” Besecker said. “The biggest thing we are fighting right now is the freshman making the adjustment to high school basketball and playing against bigger girls. There will be girls that are just more physical than them.”
Keener, a 5-11 post, is the lone senior on the squad and the only girl that is taller than 5-7.
A year ago, she averaged 5.7 points and 4.6 rebounds.
“We would like to get the ball inside to her more this year,” Besecker said. “She is the only tall girl we have. That is a lot to put on Bianca’s (Keener) shoulders, but she has handled it well.”
The other returning starters are sophomores Skipp Miller (5-7) and Emma Canan (5-4).
Miller led the team a year ago, averaging a double-double with 14.1 points and 10.9 rebounds and added a team leading 3.5 steals and shared the team lead with 1.4 assists per game.
Canan averaged 5.4 points from her guard position.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Abby Gade (5-4), Kendall Hill (5-4) and Cassi Mead (5-7) and freshman Austy Miller (5-5), Alexis Barhorst (5-3), Abby Fike (5-3), Rylee Canan (5-3) and Karissa Weldy (5-6).
“All 11 girls are going to play,” Besecker said. “They are (interchangeable). You will see a variety of lineups.”
And the Railroaders will look to up the tempo.
“We have changed a few things,” Besecker said. “We are going to have to extend the defense (with presses and traps). We are going to have to with our size. We are definitely going to look to play uptempo.”
Besecker sees the CCC to be as strong as ever.
“There are some great individual basketball talents in this conference,” Besecker said. “I think you will have the same group in the upper tier including Tri-Village, Covington, Arcanum, Franklin-Monroe and Miami East. Then, you will have teams on the next level that are right behind them.”
Coming off a 7-16 season, Besecker looks for a step forward this season.
“For sure,” he said. “I think we are going to get a lot better as we gain experience. And we have a real strong scrimmage schedule. Versailles, Russia, Piqua, Vandalia-Butler. We are playing some quality programs.”
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.