The Mansfield Lady Tigers basketball program has held a mass amount of talented and skilled players in the past with that trend continuing strong full speed ahead! Amongst that accomplished list is two sets of sisters that are quickly rising to fame status. The Lady Tiger Jr High squad currently holds freshmen, Harlie Fuller and Kynslee Ward and their younger sister counterparts eighth-grader Shelbie Fuller and seventh-grader Kaylee Ward.
Shooting Guard, Harlie, is one of the more natural shooters in the school district. Many girls in both the Sr High and Jr High compliment her ability to score from just about anywhere on the floor. Last season Harlie earned All-Conference and this season, although she had to miss 3 games due to quarantine, she has already acquired 62 points, 22 rebounds, 10 assists, 20 steals, and has been the Jr Lady Tigers leading scorer three times this season.
“One goal I set for Harlie this season is to shoot the ball more,” explained Coach Josh Bryan. “Harlie has a knack for finding the open spot and hitting the open jumper at the critical time for our team both last season and this season. Specifically, I can remember last season in the semi-final round of the district tournament, we were having a tough time scoring and Elkins just went ahead of us by one with a big 3-pointer from their best player. Harlie didn’t even hesitate. We came down the floor and she hit one from the left-wing sucking the wind back out of Elkins sails. On the very next trip down the floor, two players sailed out to block her shot and she sidestepped them both and hit another one really boosting the momentum for us to win that game. Harlie is one of my best shooters. If the game is on the line, Harlie is the one who I know will give us the best chance at knocking down the game-winning shot.”
“What I love about basketball is the bond that I get to build with everyone,” stated Harlie. “Not only are they my teammates but they are family too and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I love the competitiveness of basketball. It makes me want to better myself every day and try harder every time I’m on the court and I’m thankful I get the chance to play the sport I love. I’ve been playing basketball for 5 years and it was my mom who first got me interested to play. I had known when I moved to Mansfield that my mom had graduated from here and I knew she was really good at basketball. I knew I was talented enough to give it a try so when Little League started, I began playing. From then on out I just fell in love with the game. In school, my mom had set a record as a 3 point shooter so that’s now my goal to reach and have my name on the wall for 3’s in a season. Playing with my sister, of course, we’re very competitive but we both know we have each other’s back.”
“I love being able to watch Shelbie grow as a person and a basketball player. She enjoys the game just as much as I do and we both want to be the best we can. I say we’re both very competitive and we both want to have our name on the wall along with our mom’s. The main thing is that we push each other to do better and not to give up. We both know that we both share a huge love for the game and the time we get to share with our teammates. Shelbie and I are very thankful not only for the girls on the team but to have an incredible coach like Coach Bryan. I’m very thankful that when we moved to Mansfield he took the time to better me and my sister. Not only as athletes but as a person as a whole knowing God has big plans. We’re all ready for our next game and ready for another undefeated season!”
Kynslee plays Point Guard for the Jr Lady Tigers and after being unstoppable last year, she has continued that same intense momentum into this season. For the 2019-2020 basketball season, Kynslee not only earned All-District and All-Conference but she’s breaking multiple school records in the process. Last year Kynslee netted steals in a game with 14, deflections in a game with 16, steals in a season with 124, and deflections in a season with 125. And so far this season, Kynslee has pick-up 68 steals, 100 points, 38 assists, 27 rebounds, 27 deflections, and has had 2 double-doubles.
If the Jr Lady Tigers would have had a regular-season like last year, it’s fairly certain that Kynslee could’ve broken her seasonal steals record. Currently, she sits with 68 steals with five games left this season and only playing in 10 games. This time last year the Jr Lady Tigers had already played 18 games. “If my math is correct,” said Coach Bryan. “Based on her current average, she would have around 122 steals. That’s an incredible feat for someone at any age. Kynslee is truly a great defensive player and specifically an on-ball defender. Kynslee has a bright future in the sport and we are expecting great things from her throughout her career. The steals in a season record for the high school is 115, something Kynslee will be looking to rewrite over the next three years.”
“Kynslee is my go-to girl for energy. She’s full of it. Every team needs a player like her, but to have one that is quick, aggressive, and loves the sport is someone who can be a focal point for your program, Kynslee is just that. Kynslee’s greatest improvement from last season is her shot. She’s still got some work to do but she’s been working hard to score more from the outside and it’s showing more and more every game. Even though Kynslee rarely stops talking, she’s missed when she’s not around. As her Coach, I will be expecting more and more out of her each and every day because I know she still hasn’t reached her full potential!”
Kynslee has been playing basketball since she was four or five in the UPWARD program. “I just always loved the sport and I love the group of girls that I get to play with while also making new friends on the court. My parents were the ones that helped kick start my love for basketball. And as far as playing on the same team with my sister Kaylee, it really pushes me to try and get more points than her! We are really competitive when it comes to the sports we play together and we both push each other to do better every game. I am just happy I get to play this year with my sister!”
The big little sister to Harlie, Shooting Guard, and Small Forward, Shelbie, is defining herself as one of Mansfield’s better shooters as well. With such a stacked Jr High team, Shelbie works in her playing time when the opportunity arises. Just like her sister, Shelbie will be the Lady Tigers’ go-to shooter next season on the Jr High team. Even though Shelbie has great shooting capabilities she also has the size to really help out around the rim. Just since last season, she has grown 3-4 inches. If she continues to grow, her role on the team will be defined as a Forward with Guard like abilities.
“One task that has been difficult for me this season is figuring out who will be starting,” expressed Coach Bryan. “One reason is COVID but the other is that we have a lot of talent in the junior high program. Shelbie is another whom I trust to take the last shot. At Magazine this season, Shelbie hit one from very deep, at least 4 feet behind the arc. I thought that was a good shot, but then she did it again just a few minutes later. This showed me that she’s developing a more keen eye for the basket. With a little more time in the gym, Shelbie could be one of the best shooters around.”
Currently, Shelbie holds 27 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and 7 steals. Playing for only four short years, Shelbie says, “Basketball is a fast-paced sport and requires physical skill which is one of the reasons why it is my favorite sport. Watching my sister when I was younger really made me want to play. Basketball runs in my family, and my mom coached me and my friends my first year which helped us not only get to know each other but better develop our basketball skills. Playing on the same team with my sister isn’t bad at all! We always joke around and have fun. Harlie and I have a really close bond and we push each other to get better. We do get aggravated a little about certain things, but we can never stay mad at each other. And having the fam on the team really makes it worth it!”
The youngest player on the team, Kaylee plays Center and Power Forward. Kaylee is the big gentle giant in the middle of the Jr Lady Tiger pack. Kaylee had some big shoes to fill this season with last year’s freshmen now moved up to the Sr High team. She has filled them well though and has even started to grow out of them. Kaylee is a natural at basketball and plays well beyond her age range. Only a seventh-grader, Kaylee has already broken two of Mansfield’s Jr High records. Blocked Shots in a game with 8 and blocked shots in a season with currently 52 (because we know this number is going to continue to increase over the next 5 games)!
“I have been playing basketball since I was 5 years old and started with the UPWARD program,” explained Kaylee. “My parents got me into playing ball and once I tried it I never wanted to stop playing. Being on the same team as Kynslee is pretty good overall. It’s challenging at some points but it all ends up working out. It’s also very fun playing with your sister cause it doesn’t happen often. We are a bit competitive when it comes to games. She likes to try and score more points than me, but that doesn’t happen most of the time, but that’s ok. We will always push each other to the limit and we make sure to never give up.”
Kaylee, along with a few of the other Mansfield starters on the Jr High team, have only played about 2.5 quarters average throughout the season. These girls are outscoring their opponents 24.2 to 6.8 points in the first half alone and most of the time have a 20+ point lead at the halfway mark of the third quarter. For the Jr Lady Tigers to be putting up these numbers compared to the amount of time they are playing is just unreal. Kaylee almost had a triple-double this season at Booneville with 15 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 steals. Throw in her 7 blocked shots and she’s just a few away from a quadruple-double. Kaylee has had two double-doubles this season and has earned 131 points, 78 rebounds, 52 blocked shots, 33 steals, 9 assists so far.
Coach Bryan concluded, “Kaylee is a special young lady that only comes around once in a blue moon. She’s athletic and 6’2″, something you don’t typically get in unison, much less at her age. I will be expecting greater and greater things from Kaylee as she gets older. Kaylee is very coachable and wants to be better tomorrow than she is today. That type of mentality in a player with her potential is deadly for opposing teams. I recall a summer game where she guarded seniors as a 5th grader. They had a hard time scoring on her then and she’ll only get better as time moves on. I enjoy having both the Ward girls on the same team. Even though they argue and pick as sisters do, they work incredibly well on the court together. Kaylee has a bright future ahead of her and I look forward to seeing what doors open for her!”