|Devilettes plan to party with league ‘in’ crowd |
|Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 7:00 pm |
| By KEVIN WEAKS |
A year ago, South Ful-ton’s girls nearly earned an invitation to join the elite crowd of Region 7A.
This season, Curt Lee’s squad plans on crashing the party.
A 19-win season and trip to the regional tournament won’t be enough for a talented and experienced Red Devilette unit this season, and Lee doesn’t shy away from what he expects from his team.
“Our expectations are to be better than we were last year,” he said. “We won 19 games and finished third in our district (14A), so we’re shooting for 20 or more wins, and we want to be in the top two and play for a district championship somehow. I think the talent is there. I wish we were a little bigger, but I still feel we have the talent to get there.”
South Fulton was 19-12 a year ago and broke a recent dry spell by reaching the regional tournament. The season ended in the first round at Dresden, however.
“Last year, we finally got over that step of getting back to the region, so now we want to take a couple of more steps and have a chance to get to the region championship game,” Lee said. “You never know what’s going to happen then. I think we have just as good a shot as anyone else.”
Lee knows the road will tough, mined with two solid teams in Lake County and Union City.
LC won the regular season and tournament district titles, and then UC knocked off the Lady Falcons in the regional title game. Both advanced to Murfreesboro for the state tournament, UC reaching the semifinals.
While Lake County graduated a good group, Lee says the team is still talented. Union City, meanwhile, has almost everyone back and is poised to make another strong bid for the state tourney.
“Lake County is still going to be pretty good,” Lee said. “They have some kids who can shoot. Like us, they’re height-deficient. They’re not very big, so it’s good for us that we’ll run into teams no bigger than us.
“Union City, from everything I saw in the summer, is going to be one of the top teams in the district. They’re ridiculously big. And, they now have that little niche about them in that they’ve been to the state tournament and they want to go back. They were playing hard, they all look like they’ve been in the gym, and they’re in shape. So, that’s probably the team everybody will be looking at.”
Lee believes the rest of the district, and the region with the 13A teams, will be evenly matched. Huntingdon, Lee said, showed potential in the summer, while Gleason and Dresden were strong last year and should be again this season.
To get past that group and into the elite field, the Devilettes will have to run past the competition — literally.
“We’ve always tried to play as up-tempo as we can play,” Lee said. “If we’re slowing up, it’s because our girls are not being aggressive. Where teams have an advantage over us is when they are able to slow the tempo of the game. The idea is to speed the game up as best we can. The problem there, however, is that we’re not too deep.”
The team does have several talented players, though, starting with Taleeah Cross.
After the eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for her career last season, the 5-7 senior guard will charged with leading the team each night.
“It’s her team, and we don’t make any bones about it,” Lee said. “She works hard, so the players accept that. About 60 to 70 percent of our shots need to come through her, maybe even more. There are some others who can score, and that’s the key. We have others who can score when teams are helping off on (Cross) or when she’s having a bad night.
“For the last two years, we’ve asked Taleeah to shoot the ball, now we’ll demand it of her.”
Fellow seniors Ka-lon Martin (5-7) and Laken Haley (5-3) will be counted on to join Cross as the team’s big scorers and the team’s leaders on and off the floor. All three will also be charged with taking on the majority of the team’s ball-handling chores.
“The others will feed off those seniors,” Lee said. “We haven’t had a problem of slacking up or taking off a day. This group is showing us, right now, that they’re going to lead us in the right direction.”
For the rest of the squad, the rule is simple: Know your role.
Forward Sydney Easterwood (5-5) and guard Sierra Coley (5-1), both sophomores, picked up some valuable minutes last season and come into this season with experience and expectations. They won’t, however, be asked to take over a game.
“We tell them that their job is to get out there and go, do the best they can and just let the weight of the game rest of the shoulders of these seniors,” Lee said. “They’re the ones expected to score and come up with the big play. All I expect of the rest will be to play hard, don’t let your man beat you and get us some points here or there when they help off on our other girls. Don’t try to do too much. They’re time will come, eventually, if they stick with us.”
Cross will see action at all of the wing spots, from point guard to small forward.
Haley takes the point, backed up by Coley, and the three-spot will be filled by Martin along with freshmen Cassidy Ruddle (5-9) and Landry Webster (5-9).
Martin can also play on the post and will be joined at times by junior Haeven Sisson (5-7).
“We’ll try to get a rotation set,” Lee said. “We want to have back-ups at each spot, but we also want them to be versatile.”
Many of the players on the prep roster have been with Lee since their middle school days.
The head coach said watching them grow in his system and grow up in general has been rewarding.
“It’s been fun to see them grow and mature and see how they handle themselves on the floor,” Lee said. “I think our seniors are doing a great job of being leaders. I’ve always said our best players better be our hardest workers or we’re going to have problems, and we haven’t had a problem with that yet. Those three are easily the hardest workers we have in the gym.”
Lee praised his team for its efforts during the summer season, noting the squad’s only loss was a one-point decision to Jackson Northside. Published in The Messenger 11.8.12