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Brookhaven Lady Panthers will play fast this fall

Speed kills — especially in basketball.

And for the Brookhaven High School girls varsity basketball team to live this season, the ladies will need to use their speed to kill other teams, by pressing, harassing, stealing and breaking free. On a young team with only two seniors on the roster, raw talent will have to stand in place of experience, and the young Panthers will need to move and act, rather than setup and react, to take on their opponents in Region 6-5A.

“We play tempo. We love to play off our transition, so we expect to get some easy baskets,” said girls coach Preston Wilson. “We have good speed, so we want to push the ball, to make teams play full court instead of half court.”

The Lady Panthers are trending upward, and this is the year Wilson hopes to take his girls deep into the playoffs.

His first year was a learning experience for the team, which won only four games and got popped in the first round of the postseason. Last year, the squad broke even at 14-14 and visited the second round of the playoffs.

This year — despite the youth on the team — the goal is a championship.

“We just want to make sure we’re competitive each night, that we’re leaving everything on the floor. Everything else will take care of itself,” Wilson said.

Though the team as a whole may be inexperienced, there are a handful of key Panthers with valuable game time in their pockets.

Junior guard Shania Harris will lead the lady cats on the court this season after a great campaign in 2016-17 in which she averaged almost 14 points per game and three steals per game. She scored 384 points in the previous season and had an adjusted field goal percentage of 44 percent.

Junior Tamia Stallings was another big performer last season, totaling 290 points on the year and shooting 51 percent. As one of the tallest Panthers, the 5-foot-11 center was in charge of the boards, averaged 9.5 rebounds per game.

Johnique James — one of the two Panther seniors — tallied 80 rebounds, 80 steals and 80 assists last season from her position at point guard. The other senior, Taylor Carter, had 59 rebounds and 21 steals on the season.

Wilson will depend on that core of experience to lead the remainder of his team, which consists of six juniors, four sophomores and a single freshman, none of which have significant playing time.

“We’re very young, and we’re going to have some young players contribute,” he said. “It will be like it always is — we’ll have to stay solid on defense, rebound and make free throws, and we can’t allow easy points on the other end.”

Regular season play begins Saturday at Jefferson County. Last week the Panther ladies played in a jamboree and learned a little about themselves.

“We got to see some things, so now we’re back in the gym and making adjustments,” Wilson said. “I’ve got assistant coach Tonya Johns helping me, putting in a lot of time, and we’re looking forward to putting a good product on the floor — a team people will be excited to watch.”