With only two returning senior players, Liberty County Lady Panther coach Carolyn Kelly knows her team is young.
However, the returning players representing her varsity squad all logged quality time on the court last season and matured quickly, propelling the Lady Panthers to a 15-10 overall record and 7-5 Region 3-AAA record. They played Rutland in the first round of playoffs.
"That is the positive thing about our program," Kelly said. "We had to take the younger kids who had a little bit of experience and we were able to develop them in a hurry."
The seniors, Kourtney Alexander and Miata Askew, are entering their third seasons and the coach expects them to help guide the younger players.
Alexander, a point guard, is only 5’6", but she has a long reach and is a solid, overall court player.
"She is going to be strong for us," Kelly said. "And she is going to play all around for us at the 1, 2, 3 and maybe even down in the 4 position."
Askew missed most of last season because she was rehabilitating a knee injury. However, she was a key player late last year as the team headed to the playoffs
"Now she is healthy, well and looking pretty good out on the court," the coach said.
Diamone Johnson, a freshman standout last year, kept in shape during the off season by playing for the Lady Panthers softball team, hitting two home runs. During the summer, she prepped for basketball by playing for an AAU team in Atlanta.
"Her game has really escalated to the next level," Kelly said. "She will be able to play a lot of different positions. She’ll be able to play down low for us and she will be the player that we can put anywhere. Another player who is going to be a big improvement for us is Courtney Rhodes. She is much stronger, she joined the weightlifting team and I think it helped to develop her confidence and certainly improved her agility and speed. We are looking for some big things from Rhodes especially under the goal."
The coach said she also expects a lot from Catherine Scaggs, who joined the Lady Panthers last season after transferring from First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
"I think playing with us that half a year last year and working with us this summer her confidence level has been elevated. She is a little more aggressive than she’s been in the past," Kelly said.
The coach said the region is tough this season and the team will face big challenges from Richmond Hill, Baldwin, Burke, West Laurens and Washington County.
"They are all going to be tough this year," she said. "I can see great things coming from Richmond Hill. They have an excellent coach over there. Another team to watch out for is Baldwin. But we have to play every team 100 percent because any team, at any given moment, can rise to the occasion. You have to come ready to play every night.