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Liberty, Bradwell excited for start
Lady Tigers add height this season, Lady Panthers look for resurgence
Brianna Reece, one of Liberty Countys top scorers from last season, goes up against Akeyla Richardson, one of Bradwells top rebounders from last year. Both players are expected to return and provide big plays for their respective teams this season. - photo by Courier file photo

Bradwell girls’ head basketball coach Faye Baker’s squad struggled last year to corral rebounds, but some added height to the 2013-14 roster may boost the Lady Tigers.
“We certainly didn’t hit the boards as well as should have last year, and it was a major concern for us and something that we have worked over the summer and the preseason,” Baker said. “During the second half of the season, blocking out was a major point of emphasis in practices and games. Having more size certainly will help us to be a stronger force on the boards and should allow us more variety on offense.”
Senior Alize Roberts developed into a strong rebounder and also gave the Lady Tigers a scoring threat inside. Roberts will be joined by Kierra Martin and Myala Wells to form a stronger inside game.
“The post-game is certainly going to be developing during the preseason and first half of the season,” Baker said. “Right now, these new players that have some height are going to have to get in basketball shape, which we are all working on during the preseason. But we hope to using the inside game a lot in the second part of the season.”
Even with the much-needed addition of height, though, the Lady Tigers will remain a guard-oriented offense. Throughout the years Baker has coached Bradwell, quick, slashing guards who are threats to score anywhere on the floor have been the Lady Tigers’ trademark.
“We have always been a guard-oriented offense, even when we have size before,” Baker said. “Quick perimeter movement and passing the ball makes it that much harder for a team to cover when they have to pick up a guard scoring threat, and we will have a post game to compliment guard play.”
Leading Bradwell from one guard position will be senior Akeyla Richardson. Last season, Richardson was the back-up point guard in addition to being the starting shooting guard.
“Akeyla is developing into strong point guard,” Baker said. “She has experience from backing up Shaquoia Crockett last season and continued experience will just make her better. She went to camp at the University of North Florida this summer and had a very good camp, which has generated some interest for Richardson to have an opportunity to play shooting guard at the next level.”
Bradwell opens the season Nov. 22 by hosting Liberty County.

Liberty County

Just about everything that could go wrong last season went wrong for the Liberty County girls’ basketball team.
 “Last season, we had a lot of problems that were beyond our control,” Liberty County head coach Carolyn Kelly said. “We had to rely mostly on a guard offense because we didn’t have any height, which also cost us on rebounds and an inside game. We also battled injuries, too,”
To add insult to injury, Kelly lost her leading scorer after Christmas break.
Kelly and her squad worked hard in the offseason and with the addition of some key players and experience that was gained from the underclassman, the Lady Panthers are excited about the start of the 2013 campaign.
One of the key additions is the return of Kymberli Payno. Payno, who had significant playing time as a freshman and developed into a full-time starter in the second half of the season and all through her sophomore year, was the inside game for Liberty. Payno did not play her junior season, but is coming back on to the hardwood this season.
“Payno, once she gets back into basketball shape, is going to give us an opportunity to get more rebounds and be able to start creating a variety to our offense, which last year was totally guard oriented,” Kelly said.
Liberty’s guard tandem of Bryonna Graham and Brianna Reece had to control the ball and look for scoring opportunities in addition to grabbing some offside rebounds, though they often were outsized.
“Being able to start rebuilding an inside game is going to be an important in our success,” Kelly said. “We have several younger players that have some size. They just need to get some experience, and they will through freshman games, junior varsity and some occasional varsity time. The presence of an inside game will allow our guards to be open more and have more quality shots at the basket.”
As her roster takes shape, Kelly will end up with three seniors, two juniors, seven sophomores and 13 freshmen.
“So far, we have a great group of freshmen that come with pretty good basketball sense, and some of them may be able to help a little in the second half of the season,” Kelly said.
Liberty remains in one of the toughest girls’ basketball regions around this area, Region 3A-AAAA. Playing such region powers as Wayne, South Effingham and Statesboro, the Lady Panthers will see some stiff competition.
“It’s a tough region and always has been,” Kelly said. “Besides the teams on our side of the region, the teams on the other side are just as tough. Burke County is getting much better. Hephzibah and the other schools up there have so much tradition.”
The Lady Panthers open the 2013 season Nov. 22 at crosstown rival Bradwell Institute.

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