OC girls set sights on loftier heights after record ’10-11

OC girls set sights on loftier heights after record ’10-11
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Very good wasn’t good enough last season for the Obion Central girls.
So, instead of spending the offseason celebrating a school-record 32 wins, the Lady Rebels used that time to get better.
And it’s state tournament or bust.
“Our goal is to make to the state tournament, plain and simple,” said head coach Lyle LaRue, who’ll begin his third season on the OC bench on Tuesday night when the Lady Rebs host South Fulton in the first of two Hall of Champions games. “Even though we had a year last season that had some outstanding accomplishments, the girls and I were left with a bad taste in our mouths because of how it ended.”
That conclusion came in the form of a 71-62 loss to Liberty — a team Central beat during the regular season —in the regional semifinals.
It marked the fourth straight season for Lady Rebels’ season to end at that juncture.
Three starters return from that 2010-11 club and hope to lead OC to the program’s 14th state tournament and first in seven years in this the 51st season girls’ hoops at OCCHS.
Junior 6-2 center Brandi Goodman is the headliner of that those returnees, the dominant post player in the area last year while averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds per game. Virtually unstoppable last year on most nights, Goodman is not only a threat in the halfcourt game, but also runs the floor like a much smaller player.
Abby Blackburn (Jr., 5-9) will provide quality depth at the position.
Senior guard Macy Wright — a three-year starter — provides the perfect outside complement to Goodman’s inside prowess.
Wright, recognize as one of the top defenders in West Tennessee, averaged more than three steals and 13 ppg as a junior. Called a “disrupter” by her coach, the 5-6 Wright creates multiple opportunities for her teammates on both ends of the floor as a proven floor general.
Paige Hicks (Jr., 5-4) is the third of last season’s regulars to return and will split time at both the point- and shooting-guard slots. Hicks averaged 11 ppg as a sophomore and is athletic in the open floor with or without the ball.
Another junior, Brooke Jennings (5-6) is also in the backcourt rotation and should log many minutes at both guard spots, according to LaRue, who called her “one of our team’s most-improved players.”
The graduation of Messenger Player of the Year Mackenzie Tucker left a hole at the four-spot that the combination of Ali McEwen (Jr., 5-9) and Whitney Dodd (Sr., 5-7) will combine to fill. Tucker averaged nearly 13 ppg and ended her career just shy of the 1,000 Club.
LaRue jokingly referred to the McEwen-Dodd tandem as a “two-headed monster,” with McEwen the better defender inside and Dodd most likely to provide an offensive spark.
Shannon Wiggins (Jr., 5-9) has also “gotten considerably better,” LaRue claimed, and is in the mix at the small forward spot along with 5-7 senior Brittney Dodd as a replacement is sought for Billie Dee Preuett, who elected not to return to the team.
“We have a lot of scoring back, and that’s good in girls’ basketball because points are usually hard to replace,” LaRue said. “We’re going to continue to try and get up and down the court and have as many possessions as possible, but we should be equally-capable of playing the halfcourt game.
“I just know that the girls have worked awfully hard in the offseason after falling short of their goal last year. In five or 10 years, I’m sure they’ll look back at last season and the 32 wins and will view the year much differently. Right now, that’s not good enough and so they spent extra time with drills and with the open gym in the summer.”
LaRue’s prediction for his 2011-12 squad: “You know the old coaching adage. You set your expectations as high as you think that you can achieve, then add a little more to it,” he said.
That means the Lady Rebels will surely be reaching for the stars.
Published in The Messenger 11.11.11

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