Lady Cougars aiming for state championship

Published 12:31 am Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Football season is over and the basketballs are being pulled out of storage as area teams begin hitting the hardwood to prepare for the upcoming 2010-11 basketball season.

Last season, the Escambia Academy Lady Cougars finished 20-7 and reached the quarterfinals of the AISA state playoffs and hope to repeat that feat, but this time with a state championship trophy in hand.

On Monday, the Lady Cougars returned to practice to begin preparing for their run at a state championship.

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Lady Cougars head coach Heath Gibson said the first practice is the most difficult because of the lack of conditioning the team has received.

“We had our first practice on Monday,” Gibson said. “The girls are a little out of shape and we had a really grueling practice to see how much work they really need. From what I judged, it will take a full three weeks to get them in the right shape for the season.”

With several starters returning to the lineup including second team All-State player Amber Huskey, the Cougars will rely on their post players to help earn victories.

Despite the departure of one post player, the Lady Cougars’ inside game will be the focal point of the team.

Gibson said he will move Taylor Helton down low near the goal to help satisfy the need of forward.

“Our inside game took a hit with the graduation of Jordan Jaye,” he said. “It will still be our strength this season with Taylor Helton moving to the power forward position and Amber Huskey moving to center. With those two, we’ll be solid with our inside game.”

Another strength of the Lady Cougars will be their ability to stop opponents from scoring many points.

Gibson said he expects his defense to again be one that stifles opponents with his players swarming to the basketball.

“Defense will be another important factor in our games this season,” he said. “It’s always a strength we have because the girls press so well and cause so many turnovers.”

The weakness of the Lady Cougars last season was the ability to shoot from outside.

To address that problem, Gibson asked his players to visit the gym at Escambia Academy during the summer to take as many shots as possible to help their shooting ability.

Gibson said he still thinks it will be a weakness, but hope a leader emerges who can make big shots.

“Last season, I felt our shooting wasn’t where it needed to be,” he said. “If someone can find their shot and become a leader for outside shooting then we could move to the next level.”

With a taste of the playoffs last season, the Lady Cougars are looking to make a return trip with dreams of a championship.

Gibson said he and his team discussed their goals during the team’s first practice.

“Our first goal is to win our area championship,” he said. “From that point, we want to move on and win our region championship and then we will just take it one game at a time in the state playoffs.”

The Lady Cougars’ first game will be during a tournament at Lowndes Academy on Nov. 22.

The Escambia Academy Lady Cougars are looking to make it past the quarterfinals of the AISA playoffs.|File Photo