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Former Rebels lifting their game to the next level

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By Brian Blair

The college basketball season is under way with two former Owen County High School standouts in the middle of it all. Sawyer Williams and Rianna Gayheart are both playing college basketball this fall and making history at the same time.  
Williams is at Morehead State University and Gayheart is playing at Northern Kentucky University. It marks the first time two Owen County High School graduates are playing Division I basketball at the same time.
Gayheart is the first former Lady Rebel to ever play Division I basketball.
Both players had outstanding careers while wearing the maroon and white. Williams helped the Rebels to a pair of 31st District titles. Owen County also reached the semifinals of the Eighth Region Tournament three out of the four years he was with the team.
Gayheart was part of five straight 31st District championships. The Lady Rebels also reached the semifinals of the Eighth Region Tournament the last two seasons.
While the two players are adjusting to life on campus, their coaches are adjusting to new surroundings as well.
Morehead State University Head Mens Basketball Coach Sean Woods is in his first season at the helm after spending the previous four seasons at Mississippi Valley State. Woods took over for Donnie Tyndall, who took the head job at Southern Mississippi.
Woods said the first first weeks of practice have involved everyone starting at square one. So far, the coach likes what he sees from Williams.
 “He is getting better and better every day,” Woods said.
Williams is redshirting this season which means he can practice with the team but cannot travel to away games.
Despite not playing in any games this year, Woods said Williams has a lot of upside.
 “The future looks bright for Sawyer Williams,” Woods said.
The Norse also have a new head coach as well after Nancy Winstel retired at the end of last season. She had been the head coach for the last 29 seasons. Replacing her is Dawn Plitzuweit, who came to Highland Heights after spending the last five seasons as associate head coach at the University of Michigan.
Plitzuweit said freshmen like Gayheart have three big adjustments to make when they step on a college campus. They have to get used to the academics, the basketball and the social aspects of college.
The new coach said Gayheart is up to the task.
“She is energized by the challenges and doing a nice job of adapting,” Plitzuweit said.
As for her game, Plitzuweit said Gayheart is working hard and the effort has paid off.
“She is working to be the best she can be,” Plitzuweit said.
In her first college game, Gayheart played 14 minutes against the University of Cincinnati.
The Norse, which are in their first season of Division I competition, will play their first home game against on Nov. 27 against Youngstown State.