By Reid Bankston
Unlike Sherman’s Blue Devils, girls head coach Shayne Linzy has little experience to work with going into the 2008-2009 season. A year after losing 58-52 to Kemper County in the state playoffs in Jackson and compiling an impressive 31-6 overall record, Linzy returns only one starter to his Lady Blue Devil squad.
“Right now we are what I would consider an inexperienced team. I start two juniors, two sophomores, and a freshman. Winning those first two games the way we did is great experience,” said Linzy. “It gives them the confidence that they can win them in the end. It speaks volumes for these girls, they refuse to lose.”
Although Water Valley is absent of experience and lack the maturity gained from game experience, Linzy does have some positives in his Water Valley squad. The biggest of those positives is the play of Ashley Phillips, the lone returning starter from last season. Phillips scored 25 in the comeback season opening win against Charleston, and Linzy will look to the sophomore to provide leadership to this youthful bunch.
“She is the lone starter from last year’s group. She is the captain and we rely on her heavily. She’s probably shot more in these first two games than she probably would’ve in seven or eight games last season.” said Linzy. “With that being said, she’s still just a sophomore and she’s still somewhat inexperienced.”
If the Lady Blue Devils are to return to Jackson, Linzy must find steady contributions from other sources besides Phillips. Early in the season, it looks as if those roles may fall to Danah Benson, C.C. Phillips, and Judy Bonds. Benson and Bounds combined for 19 points and 10 assists against Charleston, while C.C. Phillips amassed 14 rebounds, proving to be a force in the paint.
“Danah has a lot of pressure on her to get the ball in the right people’s hands. I would love to see C.C. Phillips take on more of a leadership role. Judy and Ashley need to be the leaders on the floor,” said Linzy. “I’ve got the players to score; it’s just the confidence they have to get for themselves.”
Although this team could struggle with inconsistency throughout the season, as seen in the sporadic early season shooting, Linzy will not use inexperience as an excuse, and the Lady Blue Devil’s head man refuses to take a step backwards.
“We’ve set a standard here that we’ve got to maintain. Some years will be tough, but our goals are the same. I don’t want to go backwards, we’re here to win,” said Linzy. “My goals don’t change and they shouldn’t settle for anything less.”