WEST ALEXANDRIA — After two consecutive 7-16 seasons, Twin Valley South girls basketball and coach Lindsey Cole will look to step up their intensity and take advantage of the opportunity to play this year.
Led by four returning starters, including three seniors, Cole said the Panthers would like to double their league wins this year after a 3-9 finish last season.
“…that is definitely possible if we take each game at a time and make the most of each opportunity,” she said.
South’s lineup begins with senior forward Mackenzie Neal, who led the Panthers in scoring and rebounds last season, nearly averaging a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds per game, earning Second-Team All-CCC and All-District 15 honors.
“Kenzie has become a very aggressive scorer on the inside and does an outstanding job of finding the gaps in the defense,” Cole said. “She has a great outside shot and has the potential to involve herself in our outside shooting game and become an even bigger threat offensively.”
Senior forward Taylor Clark added a reliable 5 points and 6 rebounds per game last season for South and led the Panthers in blocks and free throw percentage.
“Taylor brings a lot of varsity experience and leadership to our team,” Cole said. “Taylor is such a versatile player and can play many different positions for us. I really look for Taylor to step up this year in her aggressiveness to score.”
In the back court, junior guard Makiah Newport and senior guard Maycie Davidson return for the Panthers.
“Late last season, Makiah really stepped up and started to handle the ball for us as a point guard,” Cole said. “Makiah has an amazing ability to beat defenders off the dribble and get to the basket or kick it to an open teammate. Makiah is an all-league soccer player and her ability to see the floor so well translates from her soccer play onto the basketball court. Her ability to slash the defense really opens up a lot of opportunities for her teammates when she is on the floor.”
Cole added that Davidson developed into a three-point threat last season, making 41 threes on the year.
“If she can stay confident, she can hit a lot of shots for us this year,” she said. “When Maycie gets hot from three-point range, it can be a game-changer for our team. She also plays a significant role for us on defense, and I look for her to really step up in that role in helping to shut down opposing teams on the inside.”
Beyond the four returning starters, the Panthers don’t have much in the way of varsity experience, but Cole looks forward to what everyone will bring to the team.
Senior guard Kailee Burkett missed her junior year due to a knee injury, and Cole said she worked hard to rehab and put herself into a position to be ready for this season.
“Kailee has jumped right back in like she never missed a beat,” she said. “Kailee is the floor general type of point guard that knows how to settle everyone into their positions and run the offense. Her leadership both on and off the floor will be very valuable to us this season.”
Senior guard Jasie Sarver will add depth for Panthers as a versatile player who gives South “a little bit of everything,” according to Cole.
“She’s a great defender, runs the floor on offense and can finish a contested fastbreak lay-up, can shoot the ball well, and gives us another voice as a senior leader,” Cole said. “Jasie, along with our other four seniors make up the strongest senior class that we have had in several years.”
Cole added that junior guard Abby McGuire has worked hard to improve this season, and has stepped up to enhance her individual skills.
“Her three-point shot has developed and she hit several shots in our opening scrimmage,” she said. “One of Abby’s most exciting qualities is her ability the ball up the floor and seeing a fast break opportunity. I look for her to really help us maximize every opportunity we get to run the floor and score fast break points.”
Sophomore guard Ellie Webb will get her first taste of varsity this season, potentially pulling double duty in varsity and JV due to a lack of numbers.
“She has definitely earned herself a spot on the varsity team this year,” Cole said. “Ellie has not only worked hard but has been very diligent in her work. Ellie had a lot of success at the JV level last season. She loves to be aggressive on offense and score the ball. I am anxious to see her game translate from JV to the varsity level.”
Cole said the Panthers are going to make it county every time they step on the floor this season, as opportunities can be taken away.
“We can’t change what happens in the world around us, but we can control our reaction and our attitude moving forward,” she said. “This season has the potential to teach us a lot about ourselves, as players and people. Just like anything else in life, there will be times when we get knocked down, but it is our ability to rise back up and work hard to be the best we can be.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles