CLASS 3A GIRLS Lincoln looks for repeat of last year
November 8, 2009
LITTLE ROCK Few teams in the state improved as much as Lincoln did last season.
The Lady Wolves improved by 18 victories under new Coach Deon Birkes, going from 7-20 to 25-5 and making the Class 3A girls state tournament. Lincoln shared the 1-West 3A Conference regular-season title and won the Class 3A Region 1 championship.
So how can the Lady Wolves top that?
“Any team’s goal is to get to the state championship game,” Birkes said. “We just want to improve and have the conference championship by ourselves.
“I think everybody is on the same page and has bought into our program. When kids buy into that mind-set, that’s the biggest hurdle.”
Five of the top eight scorers in Lincoln’s up-tempo offense return, including three starters. Two senior guards, 5-5 Tonya Villines and 5-6 Hanna Perkins, are back, as is versatile 6-0 sophomore RaShelle Goldman. All three averaged around 10 points a game.
“Our strengths are going to be our ball-handling and team speed and definitely our shooting ability,” Birkes said. “We’ll be able to shoot the three.”
Elkins (18-10) shared in the 1-West 3A title and earned its second consecutive state tournament berth, finishing with an eight-victory improvement.
Four of the Lady Elks’ top six players are back, including forward Maddi Grube. Three senior guards - point guard Holly Dingledine and shooting guards Katelyn Brown and Kayleigh Harriman - also return.
None of those four players are taller than 5-7, though, so Elkins will rely heavily on its fitness level to wear down opponents.
“The strength of this team is the girls’ ability off the dribble, their ability to score, and their unselfishness,” Coach Monica Wells said. “If we use those things, we’re going to betough.”
Green Forest (15-13) brings back its No. 2 and 3 scorers from last season, guards Carley Arnold (9.5 ppg) and Kara Heads (8 ppg). Sophomore twins Nikki and Tara Mullen may be able to contribute right away.
“We moved up a really good ninth-grade class that won the district last year,” Green Forest Coach Kyle Farrar said. “I like our chances going into any game.”
Greenland (15-11) will try to compensate for a lack of height with a high-pressure attack that forces turnovers. Guards Paige Anderson and Lexington Mathias and post player Shelby Alaniz, all 5-4, are all back in the starting lineup. Alaniz averaged 11 points a game last season.
The Lady Pirates are looking for big seasons out of point guard Amber Snider and 6-0 Ashley Riggles, a sharp-shooting forward. Both averaged more than 22 minutes a game last season as reserves.
“We don’t worry about height,” Greenland Coach Alan Barton said. “We put in the pressure from the get-go to the end and we run a five-wide offense, so there’s always going to be a mismatch.”4-3A CONFERENCE Same old story
Charleston (27-6) won its first state title last season, but its conference domination has been going on for a while.
The Lady Tigers have won 46 consecutive conference games, a streak spanning three and a half years.
“It’s something we talk about,” Charleston Coach Jason Rucker said. “We want to keep it going as long as we can.”
Rucker says what matters more than the streak, though, is getting back to the state tournament, and that’s a very realistic possibility for the Lady Tigers.
Center Kally Smith, a 6-1 senior who averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds per game, is back in the starting lineup, along with5-3 senior guard Chelsea Moore. The rest of the lineup will be new, but Rucker can handle that. Charleston broke in four new starters last season.
“There’s a lot of similarities [to last year],” Rucker said. “If these young ones develop, then we’ve got a chance to surprise some people.”
Mansfield (19-12) tied with Lamar for second in the conference and made it to the 3A quarterfinals, but it has to replace standout center Kelsey Edwards. Power forward Lauren Hamilton and center Savanna Colbert, both 5-10, are expected to provide presences near the basket.
Jessica Otto, 5-9, also returns at point guard.
“Our strength will be our unity,” Mansfield Coach Brent Reeves said. “We’ve got a goodbunch coming back that works hard and gets after it.”
Led by senior guard Brittney Robinson, who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, Lamar (15-8) could finish near the top of the 4-3A again. Robinson had 22 points and 21 rebounds in the Lady Warriors’ final game last season.
Senior guard B.B. Arnold (7.3 ppg) and junior forward Jessica Milloway also are back in the starting lineup.
With four starters back, Perryville (16-12) has its eye on its first state tournament appearance since the mid-1990s. Guard Tiffany Hubbard averaged 13.5 points a game last season, and other returnees include Taylor Reed, Megan Robinson and Samantha West.
“We’re going to be pretty decent,” Perryville Coach Kevin Campbell said. “We’re a lot bigger than we have been, and quickness is one of our strengths.”
Special, Pages 91 on 11/08/2009