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Bogue Chitto Lady Bobcats rebuilding, moving up — young players replacing veterans

It will be a year of challenges for one of the most dominant girls basketball programs in the area.

The Bogue Chitto Bobcats, a perennial power for more than a decade, is putting together a new team of youngsters with limited experience after graduating 10 senior players over the past two seasons. Complicating matters further is the Bobcats’ ascension from its long-held classification in 1A to Region 7-2A.

The new competitors are big and experienced. The Bobcats are not.

“It might be hard for us to keep up. We’re probably one of the smallest teams around,” said head coach Christi Terrell, now entering her 14th season at Bogue Chitto.

The 2015-16 Lady Bobcats won the state title, and last year’s team went to the first round of the state tournament.

The only returning player from that 2015 squad is senior Lineka Newson, who came off the bench for the title squad and was poised to be a contributor last season before an ACL injury ruined her year. Now she’s healed, and as one of only two seniors on the team, is ready to take her place in a leadership position.

“She should be a senior with a chip on her shoulder. She’s ready to get the season started,” Terrell said.

Junior Karly Leake returns as a starter from the 2016-17 squad and will play point guard and guard for the Lady Cats. Junior Baileigh Jackson will also play point guard and shooting guard.

“I’m expecting them to be our leaders, to be someone the rest of the team can follow,” Terrell said. “They’re going to set the tempo for us.”

Newson, Leake and Jackson hold almost all the team’s game experience among them and will be the core of the Lady Bobcats this season. But they are only three of five.

Senior post player Kylie Hux will support them, as will junior guard Cheyenne Hall and sophomore post player Kamilah Clay. Terrell is expecting good on-floor minutes from them.

Beyond them, the varsity and junior varsity roster contains six sophomores and six freshmen, providing a solid center for the program’s future. Terrell plans to get playing time for as many of them as possible this season in an offensive scheme kept flexible to best match the new 2A opponents.

Defense will be the deciding factor for the Lady Bobcats. If they’re going to win games this season, they will have to limit opponents’ shots and keep the score within reach.

“I’m expecting all the girls to play hard and hustle and make sure we’re giving it our best in every game,” Terrell said. “We’re going to take it game by game, one day at a time.”