Southland hoops coaches discuss opening matches and upcoming season

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2016


DAWSON – The Southland Academy Raiders and Lady Raiders opened their 2016 season at the Terrell Academy Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 21-22.
The Southland ladies kicked off the season with a bang, taking a 44-24 victory over defending AA state champions, the Monsignor Donovan Academy Lady Rams, of Athens.
For their second match of the tourney, the Lady Raiders took on long-time rivals, the Westwood Lady Wildcats of Camilla, suffering a narrow 45-44 defeat in the contest.
The Raiders hit the hardwood on the opening day of the tournament to battle Terrell Academy, earning a 61-58 road victory in their season curtain-raiser.
In the girls’ team’s match-up against Monsignor Donovan, sophomore, Sydney Payne, set the bar high for the Lady Raiders with 16 points, six rebounds, and seven steals. Kathleen Kinslow followed closely with 14 points while Savanna Banks added another four rebounds. Kendall Kirkland and Macy Williams each contributed three rebounds.
Kinslow led set the pace for the team in round two, tossing up 14 points and dishing out five assists. Cassi Bass followed closely with 13 points and four steals. Williams and Kirkland led the team in rebounds with six apiece.
“We had two really good games,” said Lady Raider head coach, Ty Kinslow in an interview following the tournament. “We played well. Of course, when you play good competition like Westwood early on, you recognize things that you need to work on, so that was a good thing.”
The Lady Raiders lost only one senior team member (Chris Shattles) last season, but the team’s younger, though experienced, members seem to be poised to make this season an exciting one.
“[Shattles] was hurt during a lot of last season, so a lot of our [younger players] got a lot of playing time,” Kinslow continued. “Last year, we had 11 freshmen and sophomores on the team out of 13 players… so we were extremely young. The girls came on well towards the end of the year. This year, with just one senior (Kendall Kirkland), we’re still very young, but we have a lot of experience because those girls had to play a lot last year.”
This year’s team consists of one senior, five juniors, six sophomores, and one eighth-grader.
Asked about the team’s projected starting lineup, Kinslow said that no final decisions had been made, though there is serious competition for the positions among several team members.
Kinslow then went on to discuss the team’s upcoming region schedule. “The favorite coming back, I’d say is definitely Tiftarea,” he said. “After Tiftarea, we’ll all likely be competing for those next four spots, really. Tiftarea came in second in our region last year and they only lost one player so they’re going to be strong again this year. After that, it really just depends on who’s playing well.”
On what he expects from the rest of the Lady Raiders’ region foes, Kinslow added, “Deerfield was young like we were last year. They’re still relatively young. They are very aggressive and have some talented players. Brookwood has one of the best centers in the region… Valwood lost a lot of seniors last year, but they have one of the best guards in the region… Every night, we’re going to have to come ready to play. If we do that, play good defense, and rebound well, I think we’ll have a chance to have a great year… But every game is going to be a war for us… We’re a team full of a lot of good players that have to play together and know their roles for us to succeed this year…”
Kinslow stated that the team will focus on putting defensive pressure and quality ball handling as well as rebounding in order to gain an edge over their opponents. “If we do those things, we’ll be in pretty good shape,” he concluded.
Raider head coach, Rundy Foster, spoke with the Times-Recorder as well following the Southland boys’ victory.
“In the first half, we looked really good,” Foster said. “In the second half, we looked like we were still in football mode a little. We got in a little bit of foul trouble, which didn’t help. We shot the ball very well in the first half. In the second half, we started to turn the ball over…”
The Raiders eventually cinched the three-point win after pulling ahead by 19 points in the first half.
Newcomer to the team, Saige Batten and three-year team member, Alex Roach, led the team, each contributing 18 points to the Raiders’ victory. Harrison Bell joined these two players in the double-digit club after nailing four three-pointers for a total of 12 points.
Together, Parker Weldon and Josh McKie led the team in rebounds with seven apiece. Hunter McCain followed closely with six rebounds.
“I thought we did a good job. We out-rebounded them and we pressed them a little bit. They had a few more turnovers than we had. I think that made a big difference… We played well enough in the first half to get the ‘W’,” Foster concluded.
Foster went on to discuss the team’s upcoming season, saying, “I think we’ll be fine. We just have to, first of all, get in basketball shape. That’s the first thing we have to do… We had some key losses this year. We had three seniors graduate last year and one player transferred. All of those players started last year, so we lost four starters. Now, we have to reconvene, so to speak, and see what we have… The point guard position is a position that we have to fill. It’s going to be, kind of, by committee, until we figure out something definite…”
Foster went on to say that he has two strong contenders for the position, Alex Roach, and Saige Batten, but is still in the process of determining the best move for the team.
He also said that the team has several incoming freshmen that he expects to step up and make some substantial contributions.
Foster added that, since Region 3-IAAA was recently narrowed to five teams, as opposed to seven teams in recent years, that the Raiders will have an even better chance than in previous years of earning a spot in the state playoffs.
Asked if there are any teams in the region that he feels will rise to the top and offer serious competition for the Raiders, Foster said succinctly, “All of them. I think that all of them have a legitimate shot at beating us, but I think that we can compete with each of them as well. It’s going to be a very competitive region.”
Both the Raiders and Lady Raiders opened their home competition on Nov. 29, hosting the Southwest Georgia Academy Warriors and Lady Warriors. The results of these contests were not available at press time. The teams will return to action on Dec. 2, traveling to Cordele to take on Crisp Academy.