Bridenbaugh’s individual accomplishments over her first thee seasons would be an article in itself, but the senior star is the first to tell you that her main focus is winning as she enters her final high school campaign.
“I just want to do whatever it takes to win,” Bridenbaugh said. “If I am in a position to score then I am going to try and score, but if I am being double-teamed then I have a lot of teammates that can score as well.”
Coach Steve Bridenbaugh, Lydia’s father, enters his seventh overall season at Huntington. His Huntsmen have spent most pre-seasons dealing with the pressure of being the league favorite. This year’s predictions have Huntington mentioned with Unioto to try to avoid an Adena repeat, but despite what the predictions say they don’t quite match the expectations for this year’s Lady Huntsmen.
“I think most of the talk has us in that top three, but few predict that we will win it,” said coach Bridenbaugh. “Despite what the preseason picks read, we always have high expectations in our program here at Huntington. The league is going to be really good. We have some really good coaches in the SVC, and all the teams are going to get better from start to finish.”
Huntington is a tough match up for most teams because of Bridenbaugh’s versatility. She can play all five positions combining good range as a shooter with an improved post-up game. At 5-10, Bridenbaugh handles the ball extremely well and her high basketball intelligence helps her get to line several times a night where she usually shoots a fairly high percentage.
“We are always looking for mismatches,” said coach Bridenbaugh who led the Lady Huntsmen to the Division III final four in 2003. “If teams go with a smaller, quicker defender than we can use Lydia in the post. If teams go bigger then we look at Lydia out top handling the ball.”
This philosophy makes everyone in the offense better. This forces teams to send help on the talented Bridenbaugh allowing her to find open teammates throughout the offense. Junior Manessa Zimmerman is a perimeter threat that can play the one or the two. She is a solid ball handler and can extend the defense with great range beyond the arc. Bridgett Neighbors is also a wing player that brings some versatility to the floor. She is a solid defender and offensively she can shoot the three as well as beat people of the bounce.
“I am starting to get more comfortable playing in the post as well as out top,” said Bridenbaugh who was third-team All-Ohio as a junior. “I never really played in the post during AAU and it was a tough adjustment at first. As the year went on I got more comfortable and now I feel fine with my back to the basket.”
Zimmerman and Neighbors combined will help Huntington survive the graduation of all-league guard Kari Gibson as well as Shandra Kellough and Brittany Cunningham. Coach Bridenbaugh admits that even though this year’s team will miss Gibson’s scoring and Kellough and Cunningham’s defensive abilities, he feels this year’s team will be a little more versatile.
“We will definitely miss what last year’s seniors brought to the table,” said coach Bridenbaugh who was the SVC Coach of the Year in 2006 leading his Lady Huntsmen to a perfect 14-0 league mark. “With that said, I think we have a lot of players that will allow us to do more things on both ends of the floor. I think we have more players that can go off the dribble on offense, and we have a group that is going to be able to mix pressures well defensively.”
This optimism is large in part to the effort and energy that the Lady Huntsmen hopes to get from their role players. Janea Cockrill, although undersized at 5-7, is a strong, hard-working post defender that will help Huntington’s top returning post presence in Jessica Fraley. Fraley as junior was one of the top rebounders in the SVC and now she enters her senior year with an improved offensive game that makes her a possible double-double player in points and rebounds every night out. Junior Mika Bowles will also play several minutes down low for Huntington.
Kassie Large will be another high-energy player that will allow Coach Bridenbaugh to mix his defenses. Large is one of those kids that coaches love to coach because she would run through a brick wall to win. Even though Large does not have the offensive game of some of the better guards in the SVC, it is a safe bet that she will always dominate the hustle categories such as charges, recoveries, steals, and floor burns.
Huntington will play a mixture of non-league schools from neighboring conferences. From the Southern Hills League, Huntington will play Eastern Brown, Lynchburg-Clay and Peebles. The Lady Huntsmen will also play a pair of Southern Ohio Conference teams in McDermott Northwest and Lucasville Valley, and to round out its six-game out of conference schedule, Huntington will play Jackson of the Southeast Ohio Athletic League.