Last year the Keystone Heights girls basketball team won 19 games and earned an at-large spot in the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Class 4A state playoffs.
With their top two scorers returning, expect the Indians to be a threat to make the postseason again.
“I believe we will be pretty solid,” said Keystone Heights coach Jessica Carter. “I have a lot of younger players this year, but they are a great addition to the team.”
It all starts with the inside/outside game of 5’4 senior guard Kiley Channell and 5’8 senior center Dezeray Bright. Both players were 2nd Team Mainstreet Daily News All-Area selections in 2021-22.
Kiley Channell led the Indians (19-6) in scoring with 12 points per game, including a career-high 24 points in the season opener last year against Baldwin.
She filled up the stat sheet by adding 7.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.7 steals per game for the Indians, who lost in the opening round of the 4A playoffs to eventual state-semifinalist Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville).
“Kiley is still my No. 1 guard,” Carter said. “She can see the floor and leads the team. She is a constant threat from the 3-point line but she can also drive it inside on anyone, no matter the size.”
Channell, who has signed with FAU to play softball next year, scored in double figures in 16 games.
She just missed a quadruple-double with 12 points, 10 assists, nine steals and eight rebounds against Bradford (Starke) and almost had her first triple-double of the season with 12 steals, 10 rebounds, and eight points against North Marion (Citra).
Bright averaged 8.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, including eight double-double games.
She had 17 games of 10 or more rebounds, including a season-high 21 rebounds against Middleburg. Her career high is 23 rebounds against Bell during her sophomore season.
“Dezaray is nothing short of a beast on the floor,” Carter said. “She can dominate the inside but also pop out and be a threat on the outside. She has put in a lot of work over the summer with camps and her AAU team. She will be a player to contend with.”
Last year the Indians lost to Dunnellon, 58-46, in the 4A-District 4 championship game.
The Tigers (24-4) got 25 points from Tatiana Matthews and 23 points from Kmari Williams in the title game. Both players are back.
However, Keystone Heights has moved into 4A-District 5, which will be the same as last year except Suwannee (Live Oak) (9-11) replaces Dunnellon.
That might open the door for Keystone Heights to win a district title with Eastside (11-13), North Marion (12-9), Palatka (12-11), and Santa Fe (3-9) still in the league.
“To be honest, my newer/younger players will have to step up,” Carter said. “They are going to be needed on the floor. It may take a little bit for us to gel as a whole but when we do, I believe we will be difficult to stop. Our ‘family’ feel and our drive and hustle are what will keep us winning.”
Keystone Heights will host St. Augustine at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.