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Lady Panthers have tall basketball goals

Bolstered by depth at the post position and blessed with theangelic arrival of a transfer point guard, the Ole Brook LadyPanthers are expected to make major improvements this basketballseason. Sophomore twin towers Swayze Black (6-1) and Nikki Byrd(6-2) have a strong supporting cast in the paint. Angel Weston, acat-quick point guard from New Orleans, should solve the turnoverproblems that have plagued the Billy Holmes-coached teams in thepast.

Meanwhile, the Ole Brook varsity boys, coached by Doug Hines,tackle a major rebuilding effort, minus three graduated postplayers who did much of the team’s rebounding and scoring.

Ole Brook Classic

Both teams receive their first test Saturday night in the OleBrook Classic. They meet Hazlehurst at 7 and 8:30 p.m.

The other Classic games are Vicksburg vs. the BHS junior varsityat noon, followed by varsity action: Callaway vs. Crystal Springsgirls, 1-2:30; Wingfield vs. Vicksburg boys, 2:30-4; Forest Hillvs. Crystal Springs boys, 4-5:30; and Provine vs. Heidelberg boys,5:30.

The Lady Panthers, posted a 13-7 record lastseason, winning the Region 6-4A consolation game and advancing tothe first round of the South state playoffs where they fell toWayne County. Lost to graduation was shooting guard Ashley Leggettwho averaged 11 points per game.

“This is the hardest working group I’ve had,” said Holmes, 64, aMcComb native in his fourth year at the helm. “They work togetherreal well.”

Black (9 ppg, 11 rpg) and Byrd provide Ole Brook with a powerfulinside game. Returning guard Blanche Wilson (9 ppg, 5 rpg) givesthe Lady Panthers an outside shooting threat. Wilson also averaged5 assists and 2 steals per game.

Weston transferred from Xavier Prep. Black and Byrd have two5-11 rivals in teammates Whitley Shannon and Katie Mackabee, makingthem work harder in practice.

“I’m optimistic,” Holmes admitted. “We have experience on theperimeter and depth at the post. We lost a bunch of close gameslast year.”

The Panthers, coached by Ronald Hines, are insearch of strong and tall post players. Centers Bud Chatman,Michael Thrasher and Wade Stewart graduated.

Top returnees are guard Tory Richardson (5.1 ppg), forward BoboRancifer (8.2 ppg) and guard Jerome Avery (6.4). Rancifer and Averyare starters on the Ole Brook football team and won’t be availableuntil December.

“We are basically young but we have some experience,” saidHines, 32, starting his fourth season in charge of the Panthers.They finished 9-20 last season.

Hines believes defense and the transition game should be histeam’s strength. “We are the quickest since I’ve been here.”

Jarvis Blue, a 6-3 sophomore, is the tallest player on OleBrook’s team. Semmie Yarborough, a tight end on the football team,could bring some help to the post position.

Asked about the division race, Hines said he expects defendingchampion Terry to be the team to beat. “Terry has the same groupback and Joe Willis is a star guard for them.”

Hines said McComb should be a contender in the division race,too, because of experienced players.