Southwest Lady Bears begin basketball season Tuesday

Published 9:30 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

While this year’s edition of the Southwest Lady Bears may lack in overall experience, that does not seem to bother fourth-year head coach Brent Harris. He prefers to look at the experience of the players he has returning.

“We do have five back (from last season),” said Harris, “and three of those started the majority of the year. I think Teshia Jones (5′ 5″-G-Stringer High School-9.6 points per game) had 18 points for us in her first game as a freshman, so inexperience didn’t seem to bother her at all last year.”

Harris said the other two starters-Lillie Snowden (5′ 10″-F-Zachary, LA-6 points per game) and Gabriella Cortez (5′ 11″-F-Natchitoches, LA-11.9 points per game) “were kind of our front court tandem last year from about mid-season on. So, they’ve played some important possessions. Those three have been in there at crunch time and held their own so we think (we have considerable experience).”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

What can fans expect from the Lady Bears in the 2015-16 season? “I hope we’re a deeper team,” Harris said. “I think we’re a little deeper in the post than we have been so maybe foul trouble doesn’t expose us down low as much as it has in some years. I think we’re going to be a smart team (and) a skill team. I think we’ll make good decisions with the ball (and) I think we’ll take care of the ball and have important, valuable possessions.”

Looking at his personnel, Harris said he and third-year assistant Britta Stephens feel they are in capable hands at the point guard position in the persons of freshmen Alissa Adam, Ariel McDaniel and sophomore

Ke’ Asia Gray.

Alissa Adam (5′ 8 Hancock High School) is one of the point guards who’s got good size to her,” Harris commented. “She was on a very successful high school team (and) she’s got some very high-level potential to her. Ariel McDaniel (5′ 7″-Biloxi High School), who’s left-handed, gives us a little change up as far as that goes. She’s shown a lot of growth in the early pre-season.”

Harris said Gray (5′ 4″-Magee High School) “had a really good summer. She got stronger and can give us some good minutes.”

At the two guard, Harris said Jones “has been playing her best basketball, by far, and we feel like she’s going to probably start and play the majority of minutes there.”

“Chelsea James (5′ 8”-Loranger, LA) “is a freshman who can play the two and the three and is very, very steady,” Harris continued. “We feel like we know what we’re going to get out of her each night. She brings a level of toughness to our team. She’s on every loose ball and blocks out every time.” Also looking to see playing time at the two guard is sophomore Tatyana Turner (5′ 5″-North Pike High School).

Harris said Cortez might see some playing time at the three spot even though “she played a lot of four (last year). Shalisa Hawthorne (5′ 10″-Gulfport High School) is a freshman who’s a high-impact player, ultra athletic. (She) can get her own shot very easily and defensively she can really get in the passing lanes for us.”

Cortez is expected to be the starter at the four position with freshman Kristy Armwood (5′ 9″-Lanier High School), who Harris said “has had a great pre-season” looking to be the backup.

Looking at other post players, Harris mentioned Snowden “will probably be starting somewhere in the mix at the four or the five. A’ Keyia McDyess (6′ 1″-Quitman High School) gives us a really good post presence (and) comes from a great program. She’s a true five. We haven’t had a lot of those.”

Concluding his discussion of his players, Harris said “We like our depth, but we also feel like there’s been a little bit of separation where we have five or six who can lead us.”

Fans of the women’s game will notice some changes in the rules this season. The NJCAA has followed the lead of the NCAA and adopted four 10 minute quarters for women’s play and teams will now have four timeouts per game instead of six.

Other changes will see the elimination of one and one free throws and instead have teams shoot two free throws after the fifth foul of each quarter. Another change says that if a team is trying to inbound the ball from underneath a basket and calls a time out with under a minute left in the game, that team can then inbound the ball from half court following the time out.

Talking of the rule changes, Harris said, “I’m probably leaning the other way on the rule changes as much of an impact.” On the matter of time outs, Harris said, “There’s still the same number of stoppages-we had six timeouts, now we have four (with two more coming after the first and third quarters).”

He said the elimination of one and one attempts will make a difference and that it would result in more points being scored. But, he said, “I don’t know how much we’ll get to the double bonus (with five fouls per quarter).” He also said he liked “moving the ball to half court” following an under one minute time out at the end of a game.

“Most sports emulate the pros,” Harris said, “The pros play quarters so it kind of makes sense that we take form. But, I think (the changes) will have some impact. I think the idea is to put more points on the board (and) I think that will happen.” He said he was not sure if there would be a difference, with the new foul rule, in how it would affect the flow of the game. He said he felt the stoppages will be “kind of a wash, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Taking a look at the South Division, Harris said he hopes the Lady Bears “will be in the mix somewhere” at the end of the season. “A small goal is to get to the post-season,” he said, “and then, once you get there, as we’ve proved in the past, we can make some noise.”

He said “Co-Lin’s going to be strong, as always.” He also said “Jones County is going to be very talented; they’ve added some nice pieces. Meridian and East Central (both) had (a) good year last year and, while they didn’t lose everything, they did lose some players.”

Harris said “It’ll be hard to knock on that door. There’s four (potential playoff teams) right there and, for us to get in, one of those has to be out. So, it’ll be very competitive and I think playing of the road and having the right focus is going to be a big key for us.”

The Lady Bears get the new campaign underway on Tuesday when they host Baton Rouge Community College for a 6 p.m. contest.