NP Lady Cougars

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lady Cougars anticipate repeat exciting season

By Myra Bean

The North Panola girl’s basketball team is stirring up a lot of excitement in the Sardis community.

The 3-3A District champions went on to appear in the state basketball tournament last season in February.

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Lady Cougar three-year head coach Chris Yancy is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season in which the Lady Cougars have started 3-1.

“Through it all, my main thing is to keep them humble because it’s an honor to be where we are,” Yancy said. “We make the best of it and take one game at a time.”

The Lady Cougars entered the 2008-09 season ranked No. 3 in 3A in the Clarion-Ledger preseason polls.

Center Jenisha “Shaq” Jackson was listed as one of the top juniors to watch.

Last year, the Lady Cougars were on the hunt for the district championship and this year Yancy said they are the “hunted.”

“We are the prey, “ he said. “It will be different because we are on the forefront of everything. The target is on your back now. I told my girls you are not the underdog now. You are no longer the hunter. Everyone is going to try to knock us off.”

The key to the Lady Cougars’ improvement over the years has been the focus on fundamentals, according to Yancy.

“Fundamentals are very key in anything that you do. When you get to the high school level, things are a little different. You can’t just have an athletic team and beat people just because you are athletic. It is more of a mindset thing.”

Yancy said the team worked hard on that this summer and did not run any plays in summer league.

“If you have plays and the play breaks down or the teams start reading the plays, what do you do then? My whole thing is take what the defense gives you and go through them.”

One area the Lady Cougars have been working on is the turnover situation. That was a problem that plagued the team last year, but Yancy credited it to inexperience.

“With the experience factor and over time, which got us to where we are now, that helped us playing those games limiting those turnovers,” Yancy said. “They are becoming the ‘veterans’ of the game. When you are young and excited you hear a lot of things from the crowd. When people tell you to shoot, you’re going to shoot. Once they learned and got the mental aspects of the game, I am expecting that turnover aspect to go down.”

Yancy appointed four girls to captain the team this year: Catonya Newsom, Shaveeta Gordon, Brittany Patton and transfer Jalisa Lyons. Only two seniors are on the team this year, Ariel Mottley and Jessica Burton.

“They show great leadership skills on and off the court,” Yancy said. “That is very, very important to me that a person not only be able to control the situation inside the lines, but also outside the lines. Whether the girls just need somebody to talk to or whether it can be academically, they can help each other.

“That’s a big focal point for me this year as far as basketball is concerned,” Yancy continued. “Knowing on the court or off the court what is expected of you. Nobody wants a leader who cannot make the grades.”

Lyons transferred from Whitehaven.

“She will be a big asset to us this year especially with the absence of Shaq this year,” Yancy said. “She’ll plug up the middle.”

Jackson has to sit out the first part of the season due to academics. She will be eligible to play December 19.

Returning to the lineup is senior Ariel Mottely who was lost last year due to a torn ACL.

“She will be back strong and help us out a lot on outside game,” Yancy said.

Yancy will have a deeper bench to pull from this year. Last year he only played six girls in the big games. This year he is dressing out 15 and will play eight.

“I have a good set of freshmen coming in. They work hard every day,” Yancy said. “They are pushing the older girls. I will have a little depth this year.”

As for the district teams, Yancy expects to be one of the top teams in the district because he returned all his starters from last year.

“Rosa Fort is supposed to be real good this year,” he said. “Independence just got a new coach. We have to play into that system and see what’s going on. They looked pretty good when they came to our jamboree.”

Other district teams include Holly Springs, Lewisburg and Byhalia.

Though North Panola only has the two seniors, overall, Yancy things their chances are good to repeat at district champions.

“I don’t want to overexaggerate,” he said. “I think with the experience that we have, we are still pretty young, with them getting a lot of playing time during the summer, that plays a heavy favorite for us going into district, simply because they learned how to play basketball.”

Yancy said he understands the excitement level of being ranked in their class and how expectations get high.

“All I can do is tell them (my girls and community) we will ‘try’ and get back to where we were and then go further,” he said. “You can have all the athletes in the world, but if you cannot understand the game and the fundamentals of the game, you are kind of out there.

“We are going to go hard and try hard,” he added. “We have a good shot of getting back.”

The state ranking fueled the team to aim for a repeat of last year’s accomplishments, according to Yancy.

“That was a big thing for us last year knowing we can do it. By us being successful when it came to tournament time, then right before that helped our confidence,” he said.

The North Panola ladies participated in the Charleston Tournament last week and left with a 3-1 record. Thursday, they defeated Coffeeville 53-46.

The North Panola boys also excited the tournament with a 3-1 record and defeated Coffeeville 64-55.

The Cougars will be home Friday to host Coldwater in non-district action beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, the Cougars will participate in the Greenwood Classic.