Sports and Outdoors
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Experienced Lady Panthers
ready for 15-4A
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Veteran experience and quickness, along with a much-improved shooting touch, may give the Mabank Lady Panthers enough edge to contend for a District 15-4A playoff spot this year.
The Lady Panthers open district play on the road at Lancaster Tuesday, Dec. 15, and then will return home to host third-ranked West Mesquite Friday, Dec. 18. Both evenings open with 6 p.m. sub-varsity contests.
Second-year Lady Panthers head coach Cody Christenberry welcomes seven players back from last year’s squad, including five who started at some point during the season.
“We’re experienced,” Christenberry said. “We have three seniors with a lot of varsity experience, but only one junior with varsity experience.
“We have three sophomores with varsity experience, and one freshman who has come in and has been a good contributor right off,” he added.
Senior forward Jeanice Mojica came up to the varsity level as a freshman late in the season, while senior guard Ashley Hammack was a part-time starter and sixth man last year, and saw a lot of playing time as a sophomore.
Senior Chelsea Alldredge also started last year, and has clearly modeled her defense and offense along the lines of now-departed guard Chelsey Dillon, who is starting for Southwest Oklahoma State University as a freshman this year.
Junior guard Sara Springer also started as a freshman, having been brought up early in the season following a career-ending knee injury to Miranda Groom and a shoulder injury to Kelsie Reynolds, both 2008 graduates.
Springer and Hammack both started at times, and alternated as sixth men last year, Christenberry said.
Another freshman starter, guard Ashton Norman, is back for her sophomore season, and she is joined by two sophomores who both got quite a bit of playing time last year, post Cheyenne Alldredge and 6-2 post Olivia Pannell.
They are joined by three players off the junior varsity, senior guard Amanda Cook, junior guard Kelsey Mitchell and sophomore guard Maegan Olivarez.
Kourtney Holyfield, a freshman who started on the varsity volleyball team, is also starting on the basketball team and playing like someone with a lot more experience.
Last year’s very young squad had a lot of quickness, but didn’t shoot very well, particularly layups, missing many, many easy opportunities when the ball just wouldn’t go in.
“We’ve improved on our shooting during the off-season,” Christenberry said. “We’re hitting more of our layups, although we’re still not where we want it to be.
“We’re still quick, but we want to improve at the free throw line,” he added.
A big help is the fact the girls don’t have to learn a new system this year, Christenberry said.
“Our seniors have taken more of a leadership role, and we have a lot of heart,” he noted. “We’ll fight you to the very end.”
The most glaring weakness, at the moment, has been at the free throw line, where the Lady Panthers haven’t been outstanding.
“We also need to work on our rebounding,” Christenberry said. “For our district, we’re undersized (aside from Pannell, nobody is taller than 5-8), so we need to work on getting better control of the boards on the defensive end.
“I think we’re a much tighter team this year, overall,” he added. “We’ve pulled together a little more. It helps that everything is not new.”
The team’s scoring has been fairly balanced this year, he noted.
“We’ve had some big performances, but if you look at our box scores, we’ve had a lot of people scoring, and a number of different leading scorers,” he said.
“Sara’s had three games in the 20s, and Jeanice scored 27 against Kerens,” he added. “Chelsea is hitting right around 10 or 12 a game. Kourtney had 13 against Spring Hill, and Hammack usually scores six to 10 a game.
“If they (opponents) try to take away one player, it opens something up for somebody else,” he said. “We don’t care who scores, as long as Mabank scores.”
As noted above, the Lady Panthers will face the district favorite, West Mesquite, early in the first round, and Christenberry said the Lady Wranglers are clearly the team to beat.
“They’re always tough and athletic,” he said. “They’ve got their top two players back from last year, and they only graduated one or two kids.
“We played them pretty tough here at our place last year,” he added.
“Last year, everybody in the district was pretty young, so everybody has their top players back,” Christenberry said. “We graduated four, and everybody else graduated fewer than that.”
Red Oak has been playing well early in the season, and Mesquite Poteet is always tall and athletic, he said.
“Forney has been struggling, but their top player had a knee injury, and they’re waiting to get her back,” Christenberry said. “Lancaster is always athletic.”
Last year’s district race was a dogfight for the other three playoff spots behind unbeaten West Mesquite, with each team beating up on the others, and forcing home-and-home splits.
“It’s shaping up to look about the same this year,” Christenberry said. “It’ll be a lot of the same kids going at it again, just a year older.
“The keys for us will be taking care of the basketball and gaining control of the boards,” he said. “Also, doing the little things right. We are not going to get out-hustled.”
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Members of the Mabank Lady Panthers basketball team this year are (from left, front row) Amanda Cook, Sara Springer, Kelsey Mitchell, Kourtney Holyfield and Ashton Norman; (back row) Ashley Hammack, Jeanice Mojica, Chelsea Alldredge, Olivia Pannell, Cheyenne Alldredge, Maegan Olivarez and coach Cody Christenberry.
Bulldogs freeze Frost
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Bulldogs will host the Grand Saline Indians for
a three-game slate, opening with a 5 p.m. sub-varsity matchup.
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Kemp boys will travel to Palestine for a
non-district basketball matchup, with a 5 p.m. freshman contest opening
a three-game slate.
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