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UC girls will benefit from hard knocks

UC girls will benefit from hard knocks
Jeff Chandler returns a wealth of experience from last year’s Union City girls’ basketball team.
Unfortunately, most of that was bad experience.
The Lady Tornado head coach, nonetheless, expects the seasoning gained by a squad that went just 6-21 last season to pay off in a good way this year.
“I can’t measure how much a lot of these girls’ getting to play last season will help us this year,” said Chandler, who’ll begin his sixth season at the UC girls’ helm with a 64-77 mark. “We played in so many close games last year and, even though we came out on the short end of a lot of them, I think that experience will help us to win some of those this year.”
The Twister girls — who won the program’s first district championship since the 1948-49 season in 2006-07 — should also be bolstered by the return of Labrica Ward, arguably the most physically-talented female player to come through the UCHS ranks in a number of years.
Ward, a multi-talented player who averaged 13 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore, was banished from the program by Chandler last season as a result of numerous emotional outbursts during her campaigns as an underclassman.
She was allowed to rejoin the Lady Twisters’ team in the spring, but will admittedly be “on a short leash,” according to her coach.
“There’s no questioning Labrica’s athletic ability,” Chandler claimed of his emotional player. “No doubt from the first day she stepped on the floor here as a freshman that she had a chance to be something special.
“The issues she had with her behavior and attitude just got to be too much, though, and we had to do something last year. I did it more for her than for us a program and, so far, she’s done everything we’ve demanded of her since she’s come back. Change had to happen in order for us to take her back.”
While the addition of Ward is/would be huge for the Lady Tornadoes’ immediate future, a deep roster that gained seasoning as a whole last year should mean that the Lady Twisters will have balance elsewhere on the hardwood.
The propsed rotation at point guard will include Shenisha Huff (5-9, Soph.), Brittney Mitchell (5-4, Jr.) and sometimes Ward (5-9, Sr.)
Huff is talented enough but needs confidence, according to her coach, while Mitchell has shown improvement offensively over a year ago and has good quickness.
Ward is simply the best all-around player on the squad and will likely end up underneath, though she has the skills to get the ball downcourt when needed.
Whitney Smith (5-6, Jr.) and Paige Fisher (5-4, Jr.) will split time at the two-spot after both logged significant minutes last season.
Smith is solid, but not flashy, while Fisher has made strides offensively since her sophomore campaign and is a good defender, too.
At the Lady Twisters’ small forward position, Kierra Davis (5-7, Soph.) Sonita McConnell (5-4, Sr.) and transfer Courtney House (5-5, Sr.) are battling for playing time.
Davis is aggressive defensively and a good rebounder, while McConnell likely is the team’s best 3-point shooter.
House came to the program from Obion Central, but did not play on the varsity level while at Troy.
She is a good decision-maker, according to Chandler, and she has the potential to be a good shooter if she can adjust to the rigors of playing at the varsity level.
Inside, Ward leads a quartet of players with varying strong points into battle for the approaching campaign.
Doreal Strayhorn (5-4, Sr.) is the top returning scorer from a year ago, though her average was just seven ppg.
She plays hard, goes to the glass well and can also be a decent offensive threat for UC at times.
Micah Warford (5-5, Jr.) scored 5.5 points-per-game a year ago and is one of the better athletes on the squad and a good rebounder.
Marcetta Ross (5-6, Sr.) is a decent shooter, too, says Chandler, and should help rebounding-wise.
“We’ll play 10-12 kids and an uptempo style,” the coach said. “We’ll shoot the 3-pointer a lot, too, and even though we’re not great shooters, I expect us to go get it off the glass when we miss.
“The best-case scenario is for us to use our athletic ability and try to force other people into mistakes. We may not be as fundamentally sound as some of the people we’ll play, and we’ve got to create opportunities for ourselves in the open-court. Hopefully, we can get some easy chances with our pressure.”
The Lady Twisters’ head coach identified Bradford as the team to beat in the always-rugged District 14A, with Lake County, Gleason and Greenfield also formidable foes within the league.
Furthermore, there’s perennial favorite Trenton among others looking to gain one of the league’s four berths to the Region 7A Tournament.
“I hope we can be in that mix, too, Chandler said of this season’s UC squad.
Union City tips off Tuesday night at home against Jackson South Side.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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