Brindlee Mountain boys

Returning varsity players Nick Knepper, left, and Blake Westbrook will carry huge loads for Brindlee Mountain.

Brindlee Mountain varsity boys coach Seth Kelly knows his 2018-19 basketball team let a golden opportunity slip away.

The team posted 15 wins and featured eight seniors, including Devon Meadows, who finished as one of the program’s leading scorers. But the Lions had what Kelly calls a “disappointing early out,” meaning they lost on the first night of the 3A, Area 13 Tournament, also meaning: season over.

Now entering his third season as head coach, Kelly faces a tall rebuilding task. He’ll try to mold his team around his only two returning varsity players, Nick Knepper, now a senior, and Blake Westbrook, a sophomore. Most of the rest of his nine-man roster played JV ball last season.

“It’s definitely a rebuilding year,” Kelly said before his team opened at Randolph last night (Friday). “But they’re doing a good job buying into what we’re trying to do.”

What Kelly is preaching is the three standards he wants his players to aspire to:

• Give 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time.

• Be coachable.

• Protect the team and put the team first.

Offensively, Kelly said the plan for his team is to out-execute its opponents, mostly in the half-court offense.

“We’re not going to be a very up-tempo team this season,” he said. “We’re just not very deep.”

Defensively, the Lions will play man-to-man most of the time, Kelly said.

Knepper and Hunter Riddle are the team’s only seniors. There are two juniors (Christian Adams and Kaleb Henderson), four sophomores (Westbrook, Caleb Scott, William King and Devin Lewis) and an eighth grader (Ian Garner).

While Knepper, a 6-foot shooting guard/small forward, started several games last season, he’ll have a much more expanded role this season, Kelly said. So, too, will Westbrook, who occasionally provided an offensive spark off the bench last season.

“He’ll have a much larger role than catching the ball and shooting it,” Kelly said.

King, who played on the JV last season, has taken the point guard job since then and “run with it,” Kelly said. Garner, who played on the JV team as a seventh grader last season, has the potential to start, Kelly added.

“It’s wide open right now,” he said.

While the varsity team is in rebuilding mode, the overall health of the program is good. For the first time, the Lions will have a ninth grade team (there are seven freshmen) in addition to a JV team.

The breakdown of players for the ninth grade and JV teams was still in flux just days before opening night. Some of the freshmen will play JV ball when there isn’t a ninth grade game.

Dylan Pope will coach the freshmen, Michael Hardin the JV squad.

Kelly said rebuilding a team can be very satisfying for a coach and he’s not without expectations for this season.

“We’re fighting to be ahead of schedule by the end of the season and make some noise in the area,” he said. “If we’ll improve all the way to February, we can do that.”

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