Lady Bulldogs seeking another successful basketball campaign

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The 2011-12 Cornersville Lady Bulldogs basketball team. Pictured are (front row, left to right) Kaitlyn Rogers, Ashley Warren, Makenzie Hopkins, Martha Jane McMasters, Tiffany Skeen, Brittany Umbles, Kaleigh Welch, (back row, left to right) Kelsey Wortham, Britton Stewart, Claire Garrell, Ashley Umbles, Haley Stacey, Brooke Holt, and Breanne Dunkleman. Photo by Pap

Having won three straight regular season District 11-A titles and the previous two District tournament crowns, the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs are hoping to continue their recent run of success despite the loss of four seniors from last year's squad.

After starting the 2010-11 campaign with a 5-8 record, the Lady Bulldogs won their last 11 regular season games to finish with the top seed in the District tournament while receiving a first round bye.

Despite losing point guard Makenzie Hopkins to a broken wrist in second half of their semifinal matchup against Columbia Academy, Cornersville defeated CA 73-63 before edging second seeded Santa Fe 48-46 in the District championship game.

The short handed Lady Bulldogs then beat Perry County 53-51 in the first round of the Region 6-A tournament, but saw their gritty postseason run come to an end in the semifinals when they dropped a 44-39 decision to Loretto, who eventually advanced to the semifinals of the State tourney.

Along with losing District MVP Haley Fagan to graduation, Cornersville was dealt a severe blow during the offseason when Hopkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a summer basketball camp in June.

Although she has recovered from her injury quicker than expected and has been cleared to play, Hopkins is being eased back into the lineup and seeing limited playing time early in the season while coming off the bench.

A three-time All-District selection, Hopkins has the ability to beat defenders off the dribble and finish around the basket when fully healthy. She is an excellent passer as well and one of the team's better outside shooters.

"Theoretically we should be a better team when Makenzie comes back to full strength because other players have been forced to step up," said CHS coach Micah Landers. "We have a good senior class that leads by example. They play hard and everyone else follows suit. We just want another chance to win the District title again."

Junior Kaleigh Welch is currently filling in for Hopkins at the point guard spot. Considered one of the hardest workers on the team, Welch has improved both as a passer and a ball handler and is a solid perimeter defender.

Joining Welch in the backcourt are senior guards Ashley Warren and Martha Jane McMasters. Warren was an All-District selection last season and proved she could be a consistent offensive threat in the postseason by posting career scoring highs against Santa Fe (14 points) and Perry County (18 points). She is also a strong one-on-one defender and can knock down the three-point shot.

After seeing steady playing time off the bench last year, McMasters had her junior campaign cut short due to a broken jaw, but is a good outside shooter and is very effective against zone defenses.

Senior Tiffany Skeen and sophomore Brooke Holt will also receive playing time in the backcourt. Skeen can play multiple positions and has a good knowledge of the Lady Bulldogs' system, while Holt provides Cornersville with some scoring punch off the bench.

Although CHS lost a solid frontcourt tandem in Lindsey Dalton and Nina Endsley, who were both All-District selections last year, the Lady Bulldogs are still strong in the low post thanks to the return of juniors Kaitlyn Rogers and Brittany Umbles.

After starting at center the second half of the season en route to earning All-District tournament honors, Rogers has improved defensively and has the potential to be a dominant rebounder. She has become an effective low post scorer and can face up and hit midrange jumpers.

Umbles has become much more aggressive offensively and has done a better job finishing around the rim along with being a strong offensive rebounder.

Freshman Ashley Umbles and sophomore Haley Stacey are the two main backups in the frontcourt. Ashley Umbles is one of the more athletic players on the squad and provides the Lady Bulldogs with another low post scoring threat, while Stacey runs the court well and is a solid midrange shooter.

Freshmen Breanne Dunkleman, Kelsey Wortham, and Britton Stewart are also working hard to break into the rotation while classmate Claire Garrell is recovering from offseason back surgery and is expected to return in January.

2011-12 Cornersville Basketball Schedule

11/18RCA Away6:00
11/25-26 Cornersville Thanksgiving Classic
12/02Davidson Acad. Home6:00
12/06RichlandHome 6:00
12/09RCA Home6:00
12/10 Forrest Home4:00
12/13Columbia Acad.Away6:00
12/16Santa FeAway6:00
12/19-20 Community Christmas Classic
12/29-30 Richland Christmas Classic
1/06Mt. PleasantHome5:30
1/10 HampshireAway6:00
1/16Summit Home6:00
1/20Columbia Acad.Home6:00
1/24Santa FeHome6:00
1/31Mt. PleasantAway6:00
2/03Hampshire Home 6:00 (Senior Night)
2/07Forrest Away6:00
2/13-21District Tournament @Mt. Pleasant