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Prep Girls Basketball: New year, new Courtland plan
BY JUSTIN RICE
As the season moves forward, Courtland’s girls basketball team is going to face bigger and bigger challenges literally.
For the Cougars—a team returning most of its key pieces from last year’s first-ever state championship game appearance but still lacking height—that means figuring out how it’s going to guard an opponent with frontcourt size, and who is going to get rebounds.
“We’re a shorter team. We’ve got to box out and physicality is a big deal,” said senior Jessica Hairston, who had 24 points last night to help the Cougars (3–0) run away from Fredericksburg Christian, 83–44. “We’re tiny, especially at the state level. We’re getting physical and just trying to get rebounds.”
Courtland’s biggest loss to graduation was forward Anika Trent. She wasn’t especially tall, but she had the strength to guard an inside player, even when she was outsized.
The Cougars will try to make up for her absence with swarming pressure and a team approach to rebounding.
“Imani Fennell has to fill that role a little bit this year, and she’s learning,” Courtland coach J.T. Nino said. “But it’s going to be a team effort. And rebounding is going to be a team effort. That’s one of the areas we’ve got to be better at.”
The Cougars controlled the pace for most of Tuesday’s game against the Eagles. They had a 22–9 lead after the first quarter.
The Eagles outscored the Cougars 15–14 in the second quarter—mostly because of a stretch when Courtland’s team approach to rebounding wasn’t executed as well as Nino hoped.
“When we lose focus in that area,” he said, “we can make other teams look really good.”
Courtland pulled away in the second half, using the same formula it did for most of last year—pressure on the opponents’ guards and easy baskets for reigning Free Lance–Star player of the year Janae McNeal.
She finished with game-high 33 points last night.
Brittney Burton led Fredericksburg Christian with 19 points.
“We need to get the intensity up,” first-year Eagles coach Claude Tyler said. “Right now we are reacting to what you’re doing. We want to make our opponents do something they don’t want to do.”
The other drastic change this season for Courtland is the addition of some depth. Last year Nino had just three subs, and in the state final his five starters played nearly the entire game.
This year the Cougars have 11 players on the roster.
“We’ve been trying different rotations early and seeing what works,” Nino said. “All 11 can play; we’re just trying to figure out what will work through the season.”
Courtland 22 14 26 21 — 83
FCS 9 15 13 7 — 44
Courtland (3–0): Megan Amrhine 5, Arianna Bradley 5, Melody Buckley 3, Kayla Demps 8, Imani Fennell 0, Naudia Foster 0, Jessica Hairston 24, Janae McNeal 33, McKayla Stokes 2, McKenzie Stokes 3, Brianna Talley 0. Totals: 27 20-34 83.
Fredericksburg Christian (1–1): Brienne Brannen 0, Brittney Burton 19, Briana Clarkson 10, Chelsea Dennis 2, Sophie Jiang 0, Olivia Krachenfels 2, Dominique Lavender 6, Grace Mills 1, Marnie Streeter 4. Totals: 16 12-15 44.
Three-point goals: Courtland 9 (M. Amrhine, K. Demps, J. Hairston 5, J. McNeal, M. Stokes). Fredericksburg Christian 0.
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045