The Watson Chapel Lady Wildcats lost in the 5A state semifinals last year to Paragould 52-42. This season 22-year head coach Leslie Henderson will have to lead a team that lost five seniors that contributed a lot a season ago.
Kamea Bozeman and Chelsea Payne were both two-time all-state players. Bozeman finished her career averaging 13 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots per game while Payne averaged 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Chapel Jones and Jasmine Bell chipped in seven points a piece. Defensively, the team will have to replace their best defender from last year in Leonicia Hart. Hart was an all-conference selection playing the point guard position while averaging two assists and three steals per game versus three turnovers.
The 2013-14 Lady Wildcats will have a different look, particularly in size, says Henderson.
“There are no similarities in this team and last years team. Size will be a huge difference,” Henderson said. “Last year the starters were 6-0, 5-10, 5-9 and 6-1. Our tallest player is only 5-10, but it goes down quickly after that.”
Watson Chapel’s record last year was 22-7 , including an undefeated 5A-South record of 14-0. This year’s squad will have the challenge of playing sophomores if they look to dominate the conference again. In this circumstance, Henderson expects two key returning players to step up in leadership roles.
Kierra Cox will be the lone senior on the team this upcoming season. Cox was a part-time starter last year averaging seven points, four assists and two steals per game. Another returning player that can contribute is Megan Moore who plays the role of sixth player. Moore will be the only junior on the Lady Wildcats team.
The Pine Bluff Fillies gear up this season as they try to bounce back from a second round playoff lost last year.
The Fillies finished with a conference record of 12-2 placing second in the 7A/6A-South Conference and ended the season at 24-6 overall. Post player Marquetta Sergeant and point guard Victoria Broady have graduated and are now playing in college. The loss of Sergeant and Broady only sets up the team for returning players to make a statement.
This year’s Fillies team is filled with athleticism, but is small.
“Opponents will try to pound the ball inside on us,” said 18-year head coach Loy Moore.
This positions junior Chasity Moore to make an impact in the paint. Moore led the team in rebounds last year.
What Moore’s team lacks in size it gains in experience. The team returns three full-time starters and one part-time starter. Senior Ajia Richardson will lead the Fillies this season as she brings two years of all-conference and all-state selections under her belt. Assisting Richardson will be junior Jasmyn Eckermann who made all-conference and all-state a year ago.
Two more Fillies are also expecting to step up after overcoming major knee injuries. Junior Kye Richardson returns from knee surgery and Johneice Tate will have to wait until the second semester to get into the mix as she is in the process of recovering from knee surgery herself.
The White Hall Lady Bulldogs finished fifth in the 5A-South Conference last year but did not make the playoffs.
The team’s overall record last year was 10-14 with a conference record of 5-9. The Lady Bulldogs lose two key players in all-conference performer Rachel Box and point guard Charese Simpson.
On the flip side, the team returns three returning starters.
Fourteen-year head coach Mike Upshaw states that Lindsey Williams, Alexis Winston, Hailey Wilkins and all-conference player JaeLisa Allen are seniors that are “needed to step up.”
Upshaw expects his team to be deep in a few positions this upcoming season.
“Establishing depth will be huge for us as the season progresses,” Upshaw said.
With only four players coming back with a lot of game experience, juniors Ciara Linker and Makayla Corbitt and sophomores Flora King and Savannah Ogle are young players who could eventually contribute as well.
The Dollarway Lady Cardinals finished last season with a disappointing record of 0-22.
The Lady Cardinals finished last in the 2-4A conference and missed the playoffs. Alia Jackson and Whitney Wright are key players that are lost from last season and now the team faces a lot of growing pains as they look to redeem themselves this upcoming season.
Eighteen-year head coach Paulette Bell, who returns after a one-year abscence, will be leading a team with natural ball skills which is a change from last year.
“The differences are there is a lot of raw talent and any of the players could be the ones to step up on any given night,” Bell said.
Bell expects Akeeva Howard, Serenity Alexander, Alanda Bradley, Chandra Hayes and Jayana Sanders to be the players the team will depend on after a winless season. And Bell expressed that those players have the desire to do so.
“The similarities are they all want to play the game,” Bell said.