The expectations are extremely high for the 2017-18 T-Bird girls basketball team this season as the Thunderbirds returned many valuable players from a team that made the 4A state tournament last year.

Carissa Beck averaged 14.3 points per game last season with Circle. Kelsie Kelly and Raegan Galloway averaged over 6 points each, while Camron Perry also made huge contributions last season. The biggest difference in the Thunderbirds’ lineup is the addition of Alyson Potter, a 6’ 2” transfer who averaged 19 points per game at Neodesha last season.

The Circle Thunderbirds opened the 2017 season at the T-Bird Classic at Circle High School with a 74-44 win over Life Prep Academy. The game was not as easy as the score indicated as the Thunderbirds led by just one point at the half.

After a solid start in which the Thunderbirds kept Life Prep off the scoreboard for most of the first quarter, Life Prep fought back to cut the Thunderbird lead to one at the half. Circle was outscored 17-13 in the second quarter, as Circle went to the locker room with a 29-28 lead.

All 28 of Life Prep Academy’s first-half points were scored by just three players.

In the second half, Circle came out looking like a different team, outscoring their opponent by 29 points as they cruised to a 74-44 win.

“The biggest difference in the second half was taking better care of the ball and simply knocking down some more shots,” said Circle head coach Brian Henry, who is now in his 12th season as head coach of the T-Birds.

Life Prep Academy also lacked depth, which eventually showed late in the game as their key players started to show fatigue.

“I think we also were able to wear them down throughout the fourth quarter,” said Henry.

Alyson Potter shined in her Circle Debut with 22 points to lead the Thunderbirds. 13 of her 22 points came from the free throw line. Carissa Beck added 19 and hit five threes. Kelsie Kelly was also in double figures with 13 points for the T-Birds.

Circle will play their second game of the season against Wichita Independent on Friday night at 6 PM at Circle High School.