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LCHS hoops ready to start

DAILY LEADER / MARTY ALBRIGHT / Representing the Lawrence County Lady Cougars senior class are (from left) Destiny Ball, Latashia Rhodes, Dakendra Collins, Briana Errington and Kerica Mikell.

DAILY LEADER / MARTY ALBRIGHT / Representing the Lawrence County Lady Cougars senior class are (from left) Destiny Ball, Latashia Rhodes, Dakendra Collins, Briana Errington and Kerica Mikell.

MONTICELLO – The Lawrence County High Lady Cougars and Cougars open their 2013-14 basketball campaigns tonight, playing host to West Lincoln. According to Lady Cougars’ mentor Vicki Rutland, and Cougar boys’ coach Pat Bridges, both teams are anxious to get started.

“You know kids,” Rutland said. “They think they’re ready to play after about two practices. Coaches know better. We could practice for six months, and we’d still think we hadn’t prepared enough.

“Our after-school practice period is pretty short nowadays, but our girls are looking forward to playing. I’m not sure the execution will be at a terribly high level, but I’m confident that the effort will be.”

Rutland’s Lady Cougars finished 15-14 last season, advancing to the South State tournament weekend for an unprecedented fifth straight year. For the LCHS girls to pull off that feat for a sixth straight season, some inexperienced Lady Cougars will have to grow up fast. Of the eight Lady Cougar players who scored in the team’s two south state games last year, only two of them are still on the team.

Senior center Dakendra Collins is the Lady Cougars’ only returning starter, and really the only person on the 21-person roster with appreciable varsity playing experience.

Cougars

Pat Bridges’ Cougars are in a similar situation. The LCHS boys finished 14-14 last season, but the team’s only consistent scorer, Brandon Daniels, was lost to graduation. Bridges was the Division 7-4A offensive player of the year last season.

Bridges’ most-experienced returning players are Gabriel Lewis and Phillip Moore. Only sophomores, Lewis and Moore both saw lots of action as high school freshmen. The 2013-14 Cougars are a sophomore-laden squad. Eleven of the 19 players listed on the LCHS roster are sophomores.

“We are an incredibly youthful team,” said Bridges, an LCHS alum who is in his fifth year as the Cougars’ head coach, “but we’ve got some underclassmen who will go out there and compete. We hope to be competitive early on, but we also expect to improve a lot during the course of the season, as a lot of guys get their first varsity experience.”

Lawrence County has only three seniors on that 21-man roster. Thus, whatever the Cougars do this season, they’re almost certain to improve on that over the next two seasons.

A bit of added size will bolster this year’s Cougar team, in the form of 6’7″ freshman Keyshawn Feazell. Though just a ninth-grader, Feazell, the son of early-’90s Lawrence County standout Kenley Feazell, is likely to see plenty of varsity time.

The 2013-14 basketball schedule is a rather daunting for both the Cougars and Lady Cougars. Along with the super-competitive battle-royal that is Division 7-4A, the non-division slate is littered with bigger schools, and with traditional basketball powerhouses.

“We (the boys and girls) could have come up with better records,” Bridges said, “by softening our schedule. But we want to play quality competition that will force us to push ourselves and improve. It’s a very challenging schedule, and we might be in for some tough nights, but we look forward to the challenge.”

Junior varsity girls’ action will tip off tonight’s Lawrence County-West Lincoln triple-header beginning at 5 p.m. with the varsity girls and boys immediately following.

Lawrence County Girls Roster

Seniors: Kerica Mikell, Briana Errington, Destiny Ball, Latasha Rhodes, Dakendra Collins.

Juniors: Tiara May, Dakiesha Funchess, Nikedra Brown, Keejalah Rhodes, Kyla Hollaway, Jazmine Moore, Kametrius Leggett.

Sophomores: Miranda McCullough, Xyasmin Pitts, Alesundria Thomas, Jada McDuffey, Zipporah Bayliss, Mekayla Miller, Deneisha Dickson, ShaEgypt Catchings,

Freshmen: Haven Johnson

Lawrence County Schedule

November: 7-West Lincoln, 9-at Prentiss, 12-at West Jones Girls Classic, 15-Brookhaven, 16-at Quitman, 19-at Crystal Springs, 22-West Jones, 25-26 Lawrence County Classic.

December: 3-at Wesson, 6-Tylertown, 13-at Brookhaven, 16-Wesson, 20-Wayne County Tournament, 26-28 Northwest Rankin Tournament.

January 2014: 7-at Terry, 10-Purvis, 14-at Columbia, 17-McComb, 21-South Pike, 24-at North Pike, 28-at Purvis, 31-Columbia.

February 2014: 4-at McComb, 7-at South Pike, 11-at Natchez, 14-North Pike, 17-21- Division 7-4A Tournament at North Pike. 24 – South State 1st Round Girls. 25 – South State 1st Round Boys. 27-28 – South State Tournament.

March 2014: 1- South State Tournament, 7-15-State Championship-Ms Coliseum.