Tigers want to utilize athleticism for bounce back season

By Brad Morris

As Brian Bigam begins his second stint leading the Circleville girls basketball program, he wants the Tigers to use their defense and help set the tone of a bounce back season.

“Defense has to be our calling call consistently night in and night out, especially with the athleticism and the length we’ll have on the court this season,” he said. “Honestly, our defense has been a little inconsistent for my liking in our first couple of scrimmages, so we are working on moving our feet better and communication.”

Circleville’s Gabby McConnell earned first-team all-league honors as a sophomore. Photos by John Howley/SportingPumpkin.com

The Tigers (10-13, 5-9 in 2021-22) return two starters from last season, led by 5-10 junior guard/forward Gabby McConnell, who earned first-team all-league honors by averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists, and 5-6 junior guard Faith Yancey, who contributed 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 steals.

“Gabby can affect the game in multiple ways, because she has the ability to play the point, knock down shots from the perimeter and then post up and hurt teams with her ability to score inside. She sees the floor very well and is an excellent passer, as well,” Bigam praised. “The nice thing is we won’t need Gabby to handle the basketball all the time this year, so we can move her around on the floor more and maximize her athleticism.

“Faith has had a tremendous preseason and her drive, athleticism and leadership has been unreal so far. She can also affect the game in a lot of different ways, getting after it defensively, taking the ball to the hole and knocking down shots and free throws. She has an ability to really spark us.”

Circleville will look to junior Faith Yancey to provide a spark this season.

Maddux Bigam, a 5-11 sophomore post/forward, started in roughly half of the Tigers’ games a year ago. Circleville will lean on the two-time state qualifying cross country runner for her defensive ability and rebounding.

“Maddux is a rock defensively and we’ll look to take advantage of what she does best, which is doing the dirty work by getting a rear end on someone, tracking down loose basketballs, rebounding and scoring some trash baskets around the rim,” Bigam said.

Morgan Blakeman, a 5-9 senior guard/forward, returns to the team after taking last winter off and her younger sister, 5-8 freshman guard Maddie Blakeman, will make the Tigers more diverse in their ball-handling this season.

“Morgan has the ability to knock shots down quickly and can score in bunches. She also gives us another player who can help handle the basketball,” Bigam said. “Morgan can take advantage of her athleticism and some of that volleyball ability that she has along with Gabby and get into the passing lanes, deflect some basketballs and get some steals.

“Maddie can also knock down shots, especially from the perimeter when she is feeling it. Maddie sees the floor well, she can distribute the basketball, she’s unselfish and can handle the point. We feel like Morgan, Maddie, Gabby and Faith can all help handle the ball some.”

The Tigers will look to sophomores Addisyn Ndayitwayeko, Teagan Retherford, Ayla Carmichael and Makya Cockerham, and freshman Isabelle Perini to provide depth.

“Addisyn is a scrappy defender who can rebound at 5-9 and can also get a few trash baskets,” Bigam said. “Isabelle and Makya are two very athletic kids who can defend, get to the basket and can knock down a few shots.

“Alya and Teagan are both in that 5-9, 5-10 range and they can give us two other options to clean stuff up around the basket and knock down a couple of shots.”

Bigam would like to see the Tigers contend for the Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship and put together some wins in the postseason.

“That’s where we want to set expectations for our program, to try and win the league and win as many two-game postseason rounds as we can,” he said. “For us to get there, it’s going to start with having the expectation that we are going to play harder than any team we face and give relentless effort in every game.”

Circleville opens the season on Friday when it hosts defending league champion Fairfield Union.

2022-23 Roster
No. Player Gr. Ht. Pos.

0 Morgan Blakeman 12 5-9 G
1 Faith Yancey 11 5-6 G
2 Makya Cockerham 10 5-4 G
3 Maddie Blakeman 9 5-8 G/F
5 Maddux Bigam 10 5-11 F
10 Isabelle Perini 9 5-5 G
23 Taegan Retherford 10 5-9 F
24 Ayla Carmichael 10 5-10 F
32 Gabby McConnell 11 5-10 G/F
41 Addisyn Ndayitwayeko 10 5-9 F
Coach: Brian Bigam
Assistant coaches: Crystal Thornsley, AJ Knul

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