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Lady Warriors work to be a more well-rounded team, coach says

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By Tommie Kendall

For a majority of the Eminence girls’ basketball team, they spent the fall running mile after mile for the high school’s cross-country team. Now, the Lady Warriors hope that extra endurance translates to the basketball court this winter.

After his first two seasons on the sideline, head coach Carter Martin is trying to turn his program from a group of young players trying to get over the hump to a more balanced team that doesn’t rely on just a couple of standout performers.

Now that running cross-country since July has improved the team’s endurance and leg speed, the Lady Warriors can focus on basketball fundamentals, team play and individual output. They are trying to rebound from a 1-24 record during the 2006-07 season and a 3-23 record during 2007-08. Both years ended with big losses in the opening round of the district tournament.

“Practice has been going well so far. I think the girls running cross-country had a tremendous impact,” Martin said. “I’ve been able to spend more time on actually shooting and running plays, although we still spend time each day working on conditioning to get the girls used to running from baseline to baseline. Overall, it’s been alright. I think we’re going in the right direction.”

On paper, this year’s team is not much different than last year’s. The Lady Warriors lost Kelli Hawkins to graduation, but picked up sophomores Keelie Dyson and Savannah Meadows, and senior Brazil transfer Leticia Alvares. They have just one senior and no juniors to go along with a lineup full of freshmen and sophomores.

The key player, as it has been the previous few years, is sophomore Rachel Raisor, who will handle the ball as the team’s point guard and provide most of the scoring. She has been starting since she was a middle schooler. Another key contributor who has been providing leadership and needed output for the Lady Warriors as she matured is sophomore Candace Wells — another key ingredient who also started as a middle schooler. The duo will be joined by Dyson, freshman Samantha Congleton and freshman Rachel Metcalfe to form the starting lineup that has no player older than a sophomore.

As the season gets started, Martin said his No. 1 objective is to turn Raisor into a true point guard, and not rely so much on her dribbling and scoring. But he knows other players will have to step it up a few notches. Raisor spent most of last season trying to break presses and squeeze out of double and triple teams.

“I really want to take some pressure of Raisor. Teams were eating her alive last year,” Martin said. “In order to do that, though, other players have to step up. I would like for her to be a real distributer. If we can do that, I think we will have a much better team. That’s what we need to focus on to get better.”

Last season, the Lady Warriors defeated Riverside Christian (28-19), Brown (28-19) and Silver Grove (39-31) while dropping 23 other games. They ended their season on Feb. 25 with a 64-9 loss to Shelby County in the first round of the 30th District tournament.

This year, they will open their campaign on the road at Louisville Collegiate this Friday night at 6 p.m. They will then play at Silver Grove Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and host Shelby Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

“We still have to gel as a team,” Martin said. “Until we have confidence in each other, we’re going to be just a mediocre team. I’m looking to advance this year. Hopefully we can win more games and get better in every position.”

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.