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Last season, the Marion County High School Lady Knights basketball team did something no other girls team has ever done - advance to the final four of the Sweet 16.
But that’s not the ultimate goal the team has in mind this year.
The team hopes to make a return trip to Diddle Arena, and this time come away with some hardware.
With the loss of only one senior from last year’s squad, Shakila Goodin, the Lady Knights are fully loaded for another deep run into the postseason. Key new additions to the team will also help their cause.
Junior Makayla Epps will once again run the offense as the primary play caller.
“Makayla brings that calmness at the point guard position by just knowing that the basketball will be taken care of and the plays will be ran,” Head Coach Trent Milby said.
Junior Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and senior Bre Elder will also bring experience to the floor for the Lady Knights.
“Kyvin brings rebounding and outside shooting as well as the ability to score under the basket, and Bre presents a matchup problem for other teams as she can go inside and post up or go outside and drive the ball to the basket,” Milby said.
Elder has also improved her jump shot and her mid-range game is very good, according to Milby.
Junior Patrice Tonge is a player that Coach Milby feels is a very good defender.
“Patrice is the type of player I can put on the opponent’s best guard,” he said. “She plays really good defensively and has gotten a lot more comfortable. I expect her to have a great season.”
Other players that saw some varsity time last season include Logan Powell, Alexus Calhoun, Emily Fenwick, Coco May and Ashley Bridgewater. Milby has expectations for each of these players. He said Powell brings instant scoring and Calhoun can play inside and has improved her post scoring.
Fenwick and May understand how Milby wants the team to play and both can step out and knock down a 15-foot jump shot. Bridgewater is a player that has been hampered with injuries during her career but has toughed it out, and is a bruiser on defense, Milby said.
Players that will likely see varsity action this year are Colleen Rakes and Timmera Burton. Milby said Rakes plays very hard and always gives everything she has in practice and games. He also said Burton understands the game and is very competitive.
Some other newcomers to the team will be from the middle school ranks.
“These players have a lot of potential and it will be exciting to see how they develop and improve as the year goes on,” Milby said.
Milby said his expectations for the team remains the same.
“My expectations are the same as every year - win district, win region, and win state,” he said. “This team is capable of all of these, but we understand that you have to have a little luck on your side. I wouldn’t trade this team for any.”
With the season opener just 12 days away, the team is focusing on getting in shape and refining skills and plays, Milby said.
“I want this team to become a smarter basketball team,” he said.
Milby said that in order for the Lady Knights to be able to bring home a state title, the bench and role players need to step up and give him the confidence to play them in any game, and they will earn that through practice and game situations.
Some highlights on the upcoming schedule for the Lady Knights include a trip to Phoenix, Ariz., in late December to take part in the Nike Tournament of Champions. On Jan. 14, DuPont Manual, the team that beat the Lady Knights in the final four, will be coming to the Roby Dome. And the always interesting match up with Mercy at the Roby Dome will take place on Feb. 14.