Nalley steps up for injury-riddled Southridge

Herald file photo
When injuries devastated the Southridge lineup, Kennedy Nalley realized she needed to step up and take a greater leadership role for the Raiders. “She’s a true leader,” Coach Greg Werner said.

BY COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG —The injury bug has not only forced Southridge’s hand to make personnel changes, but the players have had to assume new roles because of it.

Enter Kennedy Nalley.

The junior guard for the Raiders knew it was in her, but was previously too timid to be a leader. All of that changed when an injury to sophomore Myah Montgomery on Dec. 17 at Heritage Hills drastically changed the landscape for Southridge. Nalley has found it hard for the team to gel, having just one win since the Montgomery injury. The other players looked to her because of her skill, but it was Nalley’s turn to step in.

“Well, I can’t do what she did, but if I can verbally lead on the court and be a coach and let everybody know what they’re doing, and just try to keep it organized on the court without her, then I need to do that,” Nalley said.

She has stepped up her verbal game while carrying the leadership mantle, seeing herself as a coach on the floor and giving tips to her teammates, though she thinks she could be more verbal. Her best leadership, she said, is by example, doing everything that she can do the right way and showing everybody hard work, earning respect from Coach Greg Werner in that area.

“She’s a true leader,” Werner said.

Werner praised Nalley for taking her teammates under her wing, for putting them on her back and carrying them. Nalley has helped different players, such as freshmen Marie Tempel and Bailey Keusch, as well as sophomore Mikah Goeppner, play with more confidence. Werner noted how Nalley has not only believed in her teammates, but has gotten them to believe in themselves.

However, Nalley doesn’t think she’s always been a good leader, as she isn’t accustomed to it, and taking over a leadership role has had its challenges for her.

“Sometimes as a leader, you have to tell people what to do, and it’s hard to step into that role and not be the nice person always, and just keep everybody in line on the team,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to do so, because you don’t want to make anyone mad, but at the same time, as a leader, you have to do those tough roles sometimes.”

Yet, her value to Southridge isn’t just in the leadership department. Montgomery’s injury meant the Raiders lost their most prolific scorer on the team, and Nalley has put a lot of pressure on herself to increase her scoring in the absence of her teammate. The Raiders returned to action Jan. 3 at Evansville Central, and Nalley emerged as a leading scorer for the team. She either led or co-led the Raiders in points during each of the first seven games when play resumed after the holiday break, averaging 11.4 points per game during that timespan. But even before the injury happened, Nalley was still Southridge’s second-leading scorer on a consistent basis.

“Part of it is because she committed in the offseason and early on in this season that she was going to improve her ball handling for one, but two, playing with a lower pad level so that she could dribble in traffic and not turn the basketball over, and she cut down on her turnovers,” Werner said.

Werner recalled that Nalley was struggling to shoot Tuesday before the game against Vincennes Lincoln, but Nalley went to him, asking him to fix her shot. The two worked on the rhythm of the shot, and Nalley’s eight points tied for the second most on the team.

“I’m just extremely proud of her because she takes initiative to want to be better, and she wants to be coached,” he said. “I can’t ask for a better kid, a better leader than what she is."




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