The Lady Highlander varsity squad struggled in its inaugural season, finishing 3-12 overall and 2-6 in the GISA region 2-A, but the school can look to the up and coming junior varsity to see its possible turn around.
The JV squad, fresh off a first-place, junior high trophy win, has the talent and skills of seasoned players and many of the girls will be eligible for varsity next season.
With a six-player roster, the JV girls barely had a rotation of reserves, something JV coach Mike Brown said he hopes to change next year. But, he added, the talent he had on the court got the job done.
"My hope for next year is to have more girls on the squad and the opportunity to work with more girls so we can do what we need to do to move these girls up to varsity," he said. "I think we have the best group of girls we could possibly have at the school right now. These girls are very attentive to what we are teaching them about basketball. They get out there and try their best to execute the way we ask. I know for a fact that when these girls move up to the next level they will be good ball players for FPCA."
The coach said he has two players who are eligible to play varsity. He thinks they will likely step into leadership roles because, he said, they understand the concept of teamwork.
"That is the important thing," he said. "For them to understand the word team and make it happen on the court."
Briana Reece, 13, JV point guard and shooting guard, is one of the key players. She said she started playing basketball on a whim.
"When my brothers were playing basketball for the YMCA co-ed team, they didn’t have enough players, so they asked me to play and that is how I got started," she said.
Now completely hooked on the game, she has set lofty goals, saying she wants to play for Tennessee in college.
"I have As and Bs," she said when asked if she had the grades to get to Tennessee. "I want to improve my shooting and driving, but I think I did well this season running the plays and going with my shot and not being scared."
Reece said the JV squad did well this season despite many inexperienced players.
"Most of the people on the team are new and never played basketball before," she said. "So we did well as a team."
Leitia Leiataua is the top scorer for the Lady Highlander varsity squad, averaging 8.5 points per game. Coach Brown said she plays only one quarter in the JV squad because she is needed and eligible for varsity. She works well with the junior varsity squad which is a boost since many of the JV players will move up next season.
Another bright spot for varsity’s future is Asyria Daniels. The multi-sport athlete plays softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer and runs track.
"I’m going to work on my three-point shots, dribbling and post shooting," the 13 year-old said.
Her goal for next season is to be a varsity starter and "take state just like our boys squad,"
Coach Brown thinks they have a shot.
"I’ll tell you what," he said. "If we get the inside play we are looking for next year we will be in the hunt for a state title next year. We will not be a team that you could look over."