Despite losing three starters and a pair of key reserves from a team that went 17-12 and finished third in District 11-A last season, the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs basketball program appears to be on the upswing. CHS head coach Micah Landers has a cast of solid veterans and a group of talented underclassmen to work with this year and is optimistic about their prospects.
"Their as athletic a team as I've ever had. They really have a lot of potential," said Landers "We just need to do the little things well and limit our turnovers and mistakes."
Junior shooting guard Sara Nelms and senior center Sarah King are the lone returning starters on the roster and will be looked upon to provide leadership this season.
Nelms hopes to build upon a strong sophomore campaign that saw her lead Cornersville in scoring and earn All-District honors. Along with possessing an excellent midrange jumper, Nelms finishes well around the basket and has improved her outside shooting.
"She gets to the basket so easily it's hard to get her to shoot from the outside sometimes," said Landers.
Nelms also sees the floor extremely well and is one of the best passers on the team.
An All-District selection a year ago, King was Cornersville's third leading scorer last season and is a terrific rebounder and defender. While she has always shot the ball well from eight to ten feet, King has begun to finish around the basket better and is a solid ball handler as well.
"Her confidence is at an all time high right now. She has done really well in preseason practices and scrimmages," said Landers.
Joining Nelms in the backcourt will be junior point guard Britny Wheeler. After seeing time last year as a backup, Wheeler will be called upon to carry a much bigger role this season. Although not flashy, Wheeler does a good job of protecting the ball and is a decent outside shooter.
"She's a prototypical point guard in that she does everything you tell her. If she can knock down shots, she will make us a lot better this season," said Landers.
Precocious sophomore Haley Fagan and junior Courtney Cook will likely round out the rest of the front court and will man the small forward and power forward spots respectively.
Despite missing several games due to injury and illness last year, Fagan played well in the postseason and came off the bench to score 10 points against arch rival Moore County in the District tournament. Fagan possesses a solid all around game and is one of the most competitive players on the team.
Although she has limited experience, Cook is a smart player and has picked things up fast during the preseason. She also has a good mid range jumper and rebounds well.
If the starters should falter, the Lady Bulldogs have the luxury of a very deep bench that features seniors Abby Holder, Kristin Fagan, and Morgan Carroll along with sophomore forward Nina Endsley and freshman point guard Makenzie Hopkins.
Holder can play either of the guard positions and shoots the three-point shot well. She is also a strong perimeter defender and a good rebounder.
Fagan and Carroll provide Cornersville with depth in the post and are both intelligent players that give maximum effort on the court. They each can finish around the basket as well and have the ability to hit the mid range jumper.
While she saw limited playing time as a freshman, Endsley has improved a lot in the off season and runs the court extremely well. She is also a tough defender and a determined rebounder.
Hopkins, meanwhile, is a gifted athlete that has seen a lot of success throughout her career, and is perhaps the most competitive player on the team. Along with being a fine outside shooter, Hopkins is an excellent passer and has the potential to be an outstanding one-on-one defender.
Fellow freshmen Brittney Crowell, Martha McMasters, Ashley Warren, and Tiffani Skeen also show plenty of promise and all have a chance to play if they continue to progress.
With Richland and Santa Fe losing most of their key players from last year, District 11-A appears to be up for grabs this season.
"One of our goals is to have a winning season, but we want to play in the District championship game and we want to play in the Region championship game too," said Landers.
If the Lady Bulldogs can jell early, they have enough talent to finish near the top of the District standings and have the potential to be a dangerous team in the postseason once their younger players gain more experience.