By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
MURFREESBORO — Union City took a giant step forward with its girls’ basketball program this season.
A similar leap next year will take considerable work.
It is, however, definitely doable.
The Lady Tornadoes, who’ve had little mentionable girls’ hoop history in the modern era, made their first trip to a TSSAA-sanctioned state tournament in the 2011-12 campaign with a roster dominated by underclassmen.
Only starting guard Anna Moore and reserve KeKe Brown were seniors on this season’s squad. Moore, with her grit, heart and determination will leave a void, but the return of four starters and a handful of key reserves gives the notion of promise that even brighter days are on the horizon for a program largely void of such a forecast in the past.
To experience more of the many sunny days experienced by this year’s club, though, head coach Eddie Suiter says the Lady Twisters will need to roll up their sleeves in the offseason.
“We certainly need to improve our skill set, and the only way you do that is to get in the gym and go to work,” the coach said after UC concluded a 22-11 season with a Class 1A semifinal loss to eventual tournament runnerup Jackson County. “We’ve talked about that, and the girls know what’s expected of them if they want to get back here and take it a step further.
“You get better in the offseason.”
The considerable promise in and around the Tornado girls’ program centers around two-year starters Amber Fair and Jackie Hudson, both of whom still have two more years to play.
Fair, selected to the 1A all-tournament team after Saturday’s championship contest, scored 762 points during her sophomore campaign, averaging 23 ppg. A tough matchup for opposing teams because of her 5-10 frame and multiple offensive skills, she could prove to be unstoppable in the future with more fundamental work and improved quickness.
“I want to be a leader,” Fair insisted, after scoring 34 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in two tournament games. “I want us to be better as a team next year, and I can make that happen if I work to improve and push my teammates to do so, too.”
Hudson was streaky scoring-wise, but a regular tiger on the glass. She had 11 caroms in an opening round victory over Wartburg, but also showed the offensive aggressiveness that was often missing when Fair was on the bench with foul trouble.
Freshman guard Kealie Reaves got valuable minutes and playing time this season and was a factor with her quickness on defense. She’ll be expected to be more of a threat offensively next season with the graduation of Moore, and said after Saturday’s season-ending loss to Jackson County that “shooting — 3-pointers and free throws — are the things I’m going to focus on in the offseason. And I can always get better on defense, too.”
Her 18 points against Halls in the District 14A Tournament quarterfinals show that Reaves can be a scoring threat.
A returnee sure to need no prodding to get better is Tory Reedy, a senior-to-be who was a stabilizing factor with past state tournament experience as a freshmen at Gibson County before transferring to UCHS for her junior campaign.
Steady if not spectacular in all phases of the game, Reedy regularly led the Lady Tornadoes in many categories that did not necessarily show up in the box score — like charges taken. If she can become a step quicker, she’ll prove to be a tough matchup at the point-forward spot.
Overcoming an early-season injury, Reedy had seven double-figure scoring games.
“I wish they all had the basketball IQ of Tory,” Suiter said.
Sophomore post Kaleigh Bynum along with freshmen Raven Fair and Kristin Davis got valuable seasoning and could be critical pieces of the UC puzzle next year with a solid offseason commitment, according to their coach.
Bynum scored a season-best 14 points at South Fulton on Dec. 6.
“It’s up to them,” Suiter insisted, “if they want to get better.
“It’s all on them.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.12.12