GIRLS HS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
AMERICUS – Both the ASHS Lady Panthers and the Southland Lady Raiders had outstanding seasons last year. The Lady Panthers made it all the way to the GHSA Class AAAA State Semifinals before losing to Henry County. What was even more impressive was the fact that they did it with just seven players. They finished the 2017-18 season with a record of 24-8.
The Lady Raiders of Southland Academy also had an impressive season. They finished the season at 22-5 and made it to the second round of the GISA Class AAA State Tournament before losing to Holy Spirit Prep. Though the Lady Wildcats of Schley County didn’t have as good a season as Southland or ASHS, the Lady Wildcats are only losing two seniors, while everyone else will be back for the 2018-19 season. Here is an in-depth look at each team and how the teams are expected to perform this upcoming season.
ASHS LADY PANTHERS
The Lady Panthers had one of their most successful seasons in school history last year. They went 24-8 and made it all the way to the GHSA Class AAAA Final Four before losing to Henry County 51-38.
Former ASHS small forward Jykeria Long led the Lady Panthers to within two wins of a state title. Long averaged 15.9 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 2.7 assists per game. She was the key cog in the engine for the Lady Panthers. However, Long has departed for Chattahoochee Valley Community College, where she will begin her college basketball career this year. Her sister, Tykiera Long, may not have scored as many points as Jykiera, but still made a huge contribution for the Lady Panthers. Tykiera Long averaged 3.7 points per game, 2.3 rebounds per game and 1.3 assists per game. She too has graduated, as did Shidajah Johnson. Johnson was also a key contributor last year. She averaged 5.8 points for the Lady Panthers last season.
However, the rest of the team is back, including junior forward DeAsia Ford. Ford averaged 9.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game for ASHS as a sophomore. Junior Brianna Pope is also expected to step up this year for the Lady Panthers. Pope averaged 7.6 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game last season. ASHS Head Coach Sherry Harris said that right now, she is not sure who will take the leadership role for the team. “We’re not sure right now. That’s where we are at this point,” Harris said. “That will determine what we are as a team. I figure that if we can get somebody to take over that leadership role, we might be a better team. We have some girls, such as DeAsia, who started for three years. Nyjah Carson was in the starting lineup at times last year. We also had some young girls who played on our JV and got a little playing time on varsity last year,” Harris said.
As a freshman a year ago, Carson averaged 4.4 points per game last season, and was an excellent defender. She will be expected to contribute more as well. “Our guard play will be my biggest concern,” Harris said.
The Lady Panthers will also have another newcomer. Jelissa Reese, a transfer from Crisp County, played with the Lady Panthers during the summer. She will be a junior this year. In 24 games played for the Lady Cougars last season, Reese led Crisp County in scoring with 16.8 points per game. She also averaged 5.7 rebounds per game and 3.8 steals per game. She is expected to make an immediate impact for ASHS.
The Lady Panthers will have a tough schedule in the early going. They began with a scrimmage game at home against Lowndes on Tuesday, November 13. ASHS won that scrimmage game 41-40. Their first regular season game will be at home against Lee County on Saturday, November 24. In December, the Lady Panthers will head out to Phoenix, AZ for the Nike Tournament of Champions Wednesday through Saturday, December 19-22. This tournament will feature some of the best teams in the country. After the Christmas Break, the Lady Panthers will compete in the Lee County Round Ball Classic at Lee County High School Thursday through Saturday, December 27-29. They begin 2019 with a region game at home against Northside (Columbus) on Thursday, January 8, at 6 p.m.
SOUTHLAND ACADEMY LADY RAIDERS
The Lady Raiders had an outstanding season in 2017-18. They finished 22-5 and made it to the second round of the GISA Class AAA State Tournament before losing to Holy Spirit Prep 52-43 in a hard-fought game. They lost five seniors from that team who made a tremendous impact, including Head Coach Ty Kinslow’s daughter, Kathleen. Kathleen Kinslow set the school record for three-pointers made with 114 in her career. “We lost five seniors from last year, and three of them were three-year starters,” Kinslow said. In spite of losing those seniors from last year, Kinslow is excited about the returning players coming back. “We still have five seniors coming back and I’m expecting a lot out of them,” Kinslow said. “We don’t have any upcoming juniors, but we have a good group of sophomores. Some of them got some playing time and some quality minutes last year. We will have good leadership out of these seniors and we are expecting some good things out of these upcoming sophomores also.”
One of the five returning seniors is Sydney Payne, who has been a three-year starter for Southland. “She’s been a two-time All-Region player,” Kinslow said. “She is basically our point guard. She helps run everything. She’s done a good job for us the last few years. Offensively, we think she can do a few more things this year because we lost three seniors who scored for us.”
Payne scored a total of 202 points, grabbed 108 rebounds and dished out 58 assists last year for the Lady Raiders. Macy Williams will be returning for her senior season. Last season, Williams scored a total of 174 points, grabbed 140 rebounds and blocked 34 shots. “Williams is a returning All-Region performer,” Kinslow said. “She really came on at the end of last year and did some great things for us.” Calyn Fort will also be returning for her senior season at Southland. “Fort was hurt a little bit at the beginning of the season last year,” Kinslow said. “She’s still nursing a foot injury, but she had an outstanding summer for us.” Kinslow went on to say that Fort can play both inside and outside for the Lady Raiders.
Rounding out the senior class are the two twins: Lauren and Laney Griffin. “Both of them can really shoot the ball well for us,” Kinslow said. “
As far as the underclassmen are concerned, Kinslow is excited about the impact they will have this season, including sophomore Holly McCain. “Holly McCain has been on the varsity since she was an eighth grader,” Kinslow said. “She’s just a sophomore, but she does a really good job for us. Last year, she got some valuable minutes and played a lot.” Kinslow went on to say that McCain has always been a force on the boards, but he believes she will do some other things well offensively.
Kinslow also mentioned that Hayleigh Warren and Maddie Crisp got some valuable playing time a year ago, and will both be expected to contribute as sophomores. Another sophomore that Kinslow expects to contribute is Reese Roland. “Reese hurt her knee last year, so she was out part of the year,” Kinslow said. He also mentioned that sophomore Allie Dent has made some improvement during the preseason.
The Lady Raiders will begin the 2018-19 season when they compete in the Terrell Tip-off Tournament at Terrell Academy on Monday, November 19. They will play at 2 p.m. against Fullington Academy. Their next game will be on Tuesday, November 20, at the Terrell Tip-Off Tournament against Abbeville Christian from Abbeville, AL. That game will also begin at 2 p.m.
SCHLEY COUNTY LADY WILDCATS
Though the Lady Wildcats finished with an overall record of 7-17 last season, Schley County Head Coach Cliff Royal is looking forward to the returning players that he has coming back for the 2018-19 season. Two returning starters are back for their senior seasons: Emily Campbell and Maddie Tobin. According to Royal, Campbell is a solid shot blocker. She led the Lady Wildcats in blocked shots last season. Campbell is also a solid rebounder and can finish around the basket. Tobin is also a force on the inside. She is a tough player in the post and will bang around opponents to fight for rebounds.
Shooting guard Carmen Phillips returns for her junior season. “Phillips is a scorer and runs the floor,” Royal said. “She was our three-point leader last season and was second on the team in scoring.” Phillips will be counted on to provide floor leadership and to continue to put up numbers from the outside.
Schley County will return some talented sophomores for the 2018-19 season. According to Royal, sophomore point guard Darden Campbell probably sees the floor better than anyone else. “She’s a good shooter, runs the point and takes charge,” Royal said. Another sophomore expected to make a big impact is Amiyah Walker. According to Royal, Walker is an outstanding defensive player with a lot of speed. Walker will be expected to provide defensive intensity and to force Schley County’s opponents into committing turnovers. Dasani Miller returns as a sophomore. Last season, Miller led the Lady Wildcats in scoring and rebounding as a freshman. With a year of experience under her belt, along with the talent that she has, Miller will be expected to have an even more productive 2018-19 season for Schley County.
Royal is also excited about the freshmen he will have on his squad. He expects Berkley Goodin, Sarah Barnhill and Kursten Dutcher to play a role in the Lady Wildcats’ success.
“We will be stronger this year. We have made plans to be in the state tournament,” Royal said.
“We are in a tough region with two teams from our region playing in the state championship last year.”
Royal was referring to Greenville and Marion County. Greenville won last year’s GHSA Class A-Public state championship when they defeated Marion County 73-52.
Schley County finished 5-11 in the Region 4A-Public standings last year. However, the experience gained from last year, particularly by the younger players, should help the Lady Wildcats have a much better record in the 2018-19 season.