Lady Cougars snarl into action

Published 5:30 pm Friday, November 11, 2005

By By Matthew Nascone
The two-time state champion Escambia Academy Lady Cougars basketball team is ready to face the challenge of defending their title for a second straight year. With the win last year the Lady Cougars won back-to-back championships for the first time in school history.
However, EA lost four starters from last year's team to graduation. Head coach Heath Gibson knows the road to a third consecutive title is steep, but he believes in his girls.
"We have a good group of girls returning this year and we are expecting a lot of good things from them," Gibson said. "They have a good work ethic and that is a big thing."
The Lady Cougars did not lose all their starters and their leading scorer, Lori Bonds, is back for her senior year. Bonds averaged 21 points per game last year and has been named the state championship game MVP the last two years.
"She is actually a good size and she can hurt teams inside as well, so if her shot is not on she can just take it on in," Gibson said.
Jaime Drew also returns to the starting lineup for EA. Gibson said Drew is a good defensive player and is tough on the opposing teams during the Lady Cougars press defensive scheme.
"She is always a big help to us on defense because she forces a lot of turnovers," Gibson said. "She makes things happen for us and gets us into the transition game."
Allison Thomas will be the starting point guard for Gibson's squad. He said she would help fill the holes left by the graduated seniors.
"We lost a lot of height last year and we will have to rely on the fast break a lot more than we ever have this year," Gibson said. "Allison has great speed to lead that fast break. She didn't get a whole lot of playing time last year, but she can shoot the ball well."
Gibson said he has not determined his starters at the center and two forward positions.
The Lady Cougars went to a high school basketball camp at Troy University in June and came away as the second place team with a record of 12-1. Gibson said he was pleased with the girls' play at the camp.
"Our girls have been dominant for the past six years, winning four state championships, so the other teams thought they were going to come in and whip us because we had lost some starters, but our girls stepped it up and beat most of them."
After watching his girls play together at the camp Gibson was satisfied with the chemistry of his team, he said.
"That's one thing that has been good, our girls have always had great chemistry," Gibson said. "They may not be the most talented bunch, but they outwork the other teams to put themselves in a position to win. It says a lot about the character of these girls and it has been that way for a long time."
Gibson said EA is one of the few teams in AISA Class 2A who lost some of their girls so all the teams on their schedule will be gunning for them. One team in particular is Patrician Academy.
"Patrician has been to the Final Four the past two years and they didn't graduate any seniors, so they are a big competition to us," Gibson said. "We don't face them in the regular season, but we know they will be there in the playoffs."
Another team the Lady Cougars will have a tough time with is Faith Academy, who handed EA two of its five losses last year.
"They are in 3A so we don't have to fool with them when it comes playoff time, but they make us better every time we play them," Gibson said. "They have numerous girls who I believe will play Division 1 college basketball."
Gibson said he wants to keep the tradition of excellence going this year and he will not stop until the Lady Cougars have won their third consecutive state championship.
"The ultimate goal is to win the state title and this year it is going to be harder than it has ever been because a lot of teams have not lost a lot of players and we lost quite a few girls," Gibson said.

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