Girls’ basketball: Area teams look to new players for new season

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

Seniors are generally asked to contribute plenty, and Centreville Academy post Jenae Jackson is no exception.

She has to score, rebound and help create scoring opportunities for teammates when she’s double- or triple-teamed. She’s got to help pump up a Lady Tiger team under new head coach Penny Sawyer, and the two of them have another duty here at the start of the season.

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Jackson, who signed with Southern Miss earlier in the week, is one of the top prep basketball players in the Miss-Lou this season as the season tipped off last week in MPSA. Others started earlier this week, and action gets into full swing this week in a season of transition among teams in the Miss-Lou.

Last season’s class produced a load of college talent with nine players signing to play college, including two-time All-Metro Player of the Year Monique Jones of Ferriday with Baylor. Now it’s a season of fresh new faces and new talent for several teams, and the Lady Tigers &045; who made the Class AA state tournament a year ago &045; is no different.

&uot;This is my first year to coach, and this is their first year under me,&uot; said Sawyer, an assistant under John Brashier last year at CA. &uot;I only have two with a lot of experience, one with limited experience and the rest are coming up from the junior high or have never played. Taking that into consideration, I think our girls are doing really well. Jenae will help me, but it takes five to win the ball game. They respect Jenae as a leader, and they work well together.&uot;

It’s the same story for other teams in the Miss-Lou &045; Natchez High, Ferriday, Jefferson County, Block and Huntington &045; who welcome in a new class of talent and players to keep things going.

The 6-1 Jackson, however, is one of six area players to watch this season. Others include Wilkinson County’s Latasha Williams, Adams Christian’s Nikki Hankins, Trinity Episcopal’s Mallory Archer and Natchez High’s Deliqua Drake.

Jackson averaged double-figures in blocks and rebounds last year while scoring almost 18 a game. Her season-high was 35 vs. Leake Academy in the South State tournament.

&uot;She can do a lot,&uot; Sawyer said of Jackson. &uot;She plays with a real level head, sees the floor well and is very coachable. She’s a good, steady player. They double- and triple-team her, and that tells you what kind of player she is. She’s played basketball all year round, and her parents really help her. She lives and breathes basketball, but it does not come before family and church.&uot;

Natchez High

It’s a season of transition as the Lady Bulldogs have to replace starters Karmethia Mazique, Gloria Lewis and Crystal L. Brown, all of whom are playing junior college ball this season. Brown’s role in the paint will be inherited by Drake, who played well in underneath at either the 4 or the 5 position and has good size.

The Lady Bulldogs also have Tahiti Brown and 6-4 Sharika Hargrave returning in the middle. The question is the guard play after the losses of Mazique and Lewis, especially Mazique &045; one of the best defenders in the area a season ago.


It’s also nearly a whole new team in Ferriday, a team that lost Jones and three other starters from a team that finished the season 31-1 last season and lost in the state Class 2A quarterfinals.

The lone starter returning is guard Jameca Garrison, a sophomore who will be in a leadership role this season. Garrison will also move from the shooting guard to the point following the loss of LaShawnda Pryor.

&uot;She’s injured right now, but before that she was playing great and showing good leadership,&uot; Ferriday head coach Lisa Abron said. &uot;She has a huge role to play this year. She’s the only returning starter, knows our system and knows what to expect. I don’t know if she realizes how big her role is, but we’ve been emphasizing to her how big her role is in practice.&uot;

The biggest thing Garrison will bring is her defense, the biggest strength of team last year with its brutal full-court press. The Lady Trojans will have to adjust to not having the height of last year following the losses of Jones and Latasha Cain.

The team will have two seniors &045; Rosalind Johnson and KeAnna Green.

&uot;We’ll use our same philosophy of playing good defense,&uot; Abron said. &uot;We don’t have much size, but I’ve never had much size since I’ve been here. We’ll try to stay defensive-minded. That’s what helped us in the past. We’ve got a new team but the same dream.&uot;

Wilkinson County

While most teams are turning to new players, the ones who aren’t are in good shape heading into the season. The biggest may be WCHS, a team that lost two starters from a year ago and return a healthy crop of talent after getting into the playoffs last year.

The Lady Wildcats finished the regular season with a 10-18 record but stormed into the tournament championship in the Division 7-3A tournament, cracked the playoffs before losing to West Lauderdale.

&uot;We’re really shooting for the division championship,&uot; WCHS head coach Edwin White said. &uot;Being a young team gave them a chance to see a different style of play (in the playoffs). We looked at it like a learning experience. West Lauderdale was a physical team and played hard and aggressive, and most of the teams in our division don’t play that kind of ball.&uot;

It’s the fourth season for White coaching the Lady Wildcats, and it’s one he admits will bear the fruits of his efforts. The Lady Wildcats will have some key playmakers this year, including Kim Griffin and Williams.

Williams had 26 in last year’s loss at West Lauderdale.

&uot;She’s probably one of the fastest people I’ve seen in this area,&uot; White said. &uot;She’s a good leader, very coachable and very disciplined.&uot;

Adams Christian

The Lady Rebels have a group of five seniors this year in the hopes of having a better run through the ultra-tough MPSA District 2-AAA. The Lady Rebels struggled at times last year, but they’re more equipped to have betters results with seniors Hankins, Kim Robertson, Anna McLemore, April Boyd and Krystal Truitt.

&uot;They’ve played a lot since the 10th grade (and have been together) since the seventh grade,&uot; AC head coach Bruce Pickle said. &uot;I think they had eight or nine of them (at the start), but they’re the last one left. I think the results have been pretty good so far. We didn’t play well at all (Thursday). They’re expecting a big year, and I am, too.&uot;

It’s Robertson and McLemore who are scoring threats, but Hankins can score and play strong defense as well. She spent some time early last year with an ankle injury, and it had her hobbled the rest of the season and into track season.

But she overcame it enough to win the state title in the 400- and 200-meter races.

&uot;That’s what she does &045; she’s going to get after them on defense,&uot; Pickle said. &uot;Her quickness up and down the floor and mainly energy.&uot;

Trinity Episcopal

The Lady Saints have their best player returning as a sophomore in Archer. Last year as a freshman Archer finished second in the coaches’ poll for the Player of the Year in District 7-A after averaging in double figures and sparking the team into to South State.

&uot;When Mallory was in the seventh grade, she was my starting point guard on the junior high team,&uot; Trinity head coach Melanie Hall said. &uot;She’s actually a 2 guard, but she does a beautiful job at point guard. She loves basketball and goes to a lot of camps in the summer. She is a shooter. We’re trying to get her to be a little quicker.&uot;