Cougars running into 2007-08
By By Matthew Nascone
The Escambia Academy boys' basketball team is ready to run.
Head coach Kevin Woods said the team has a lot of quickness and speed this year to go along with depth at the post position and guard position.
"We have more team speed than we have ever had since I have been the coach here," Woods said. "I am looking forward to a really good season. All the guys are working real hard."
The 2007-08 Cougars are a collection of varsity mainstays, first time varsity players and returning talent. The Cougars will rely on returning starters Tyler Harrison and Blake Kirk for the rebounding and defensive pressure.
Michael Hippa and Seth Lassiter return to the Cougars and Woods said they should both have a positive impact on the team. Greg McGhee is a senior who has never played on the Cougars squad and Tank Mitchell is the spark plug of the offense.
All of these guys will have to replace the scoring and defense of graduated seniors Andrew Lambeth, Joe Drew and Cody Norton.
"It will be hard to replace that many points," Woods said. "We have three or four guys who can contribute on a consistent basis. We will be a lot more of a fast break team than we were last year because of our speed."
A lot of that speed comes on the legs of Mitchell.
"Tank was brought up last year and helped us a lot and he is back this year," Woods said. "Tank is the engine that makes everything go. He is all over the court, he handles the ball and he will have a big year for us getting us in the right play and making the right decisions."
Woods said the season starts in November, but the only part of the season that matters does not begin until January.
"Our goal at the beginning of the season is to win the regular season area championship," Woods said. "The season boils down to six games. And they are all in January, so we play November and December to get ready for a couple games in January. That is the only goal we are concentrating on right now and all the guys understand that."
To accomplish that goal there are two aspects of the Cougars' game that Woods said the team will have to improve on from last season.
"We have been really stressing defense and not committing turnovers," he said. "Our turnovers were a big problem last year and if we have better ball security we will have a good shot of winning our area."
Before the Cougars get to area play, they must face the three toughest teams on their schedule in the first three games.
"Like always we start out with three of the best teams in the state in Faith, Cottage Hill and Fort Dale," Woods said. "Cottage Hill is a perennial Class AAA state finals participant and Faith won the AAA title two years ago, while Fort Dale has won the AAA title in the past. Our first three ball games are going to be three of the best teams we play all year. It is a tough way to start, but that is who we play."
Woods will send the starting lineup of Tyler Harrison, Blake Kirk, Tank Mitchell, James White and Michael Hippa out to face Fort Dale in the first game of the season Tuesday in Canoe against Faith. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. for the JV girls' game.