Published in the HORIZON November 20, 2013
By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor
CELINA-Head coach Joe Sims heads into his 22nd year as the Clay County Lady Bulldog head basketball coach knowing his team has a tough challenge ahead of them in District 7-A, but he feels with consistent scoring and improvement every game the 2013-2014 squad may raise eyebrows by season’s end.
“People probably aren’t expecting us to be very good, but I think we will surprise those people,” the legendary high school girls basketball coach said. “I’ve been pleased with our effort so far and the girls have a good attitude, want to be a good team, and are willing to work for it.
“We will have to improve as the season goes and consistently score points to be successful, but I think this team has a shot to be competitive if we can do those things.”
Sims does have four senior starters–Ashley Owens, Olivia Copeland, Ruby Richards, and Kalona Meadows, who will join junior Kennedy Smith on the floor.
Owens led the Lady Bulldogs in scoring from the wing last year (12 ppg) and Sims said she was his most experienced player.
“I expect a big year from Ashley,” he said. “She has to be our team leader and shoot a good percentage from the three-point line.”
Copeland saw significant time last year and will also play a big role for the team at her post position.
“Olivia has improved a lot over the summer and has become a more complete player,” Sims said. “She played in every game last year when she was healthy and we will need her even more this year.”
Richards will start at point guard and Sims said he was also pleased with her progression over the offseason.
“Ruby gained some valuable experience last year and I was pleased with her play this summer,” the coach said. “She is a smart player and makes good decisions with the ball.
“I expect her to have a good year.”
Meadows, who missed much of last season due to injury, will join Owens on the perimeter at wing.
“Kalona is a good shooter and we’re gonna need her to make shots when she’s open this year,” Sims said. “Her play will be important to this team.”
Sims said Smith gives his team some needed size inside at her post position and explained she has played well so far this year despite missing all of last season.
“She hasn’t played in awhile, but it doesn’t show,” the coach said. “She is athletic and can get up and down the floor.
“Besides that she can shoot, score, and rebound.”
Others set to see the floor this season include freshman point guard Kaitlin McClain, sophomore post Riley Edwards, and sophomore wing Chanah Sherrell.
“Kaitlin has size at the point, Riley gives us a presence down low, and Chanah is a good shooter that has some speed.
“All three of those girls will play big roles for us at some point in the season I’m sure.”
Though they are picked to finish fourth in the conference behind Clarkrange, Jackson County, and Pickett County, the Lady Dawgs are sure to be in the mix come tournament time.
Sims has a career record of 448-233 and will be assisted by Farrah Wood.
His record, along with seven district titles, a half-dozen region championships, well over a dozen sub-state appearances, 10 state tournament trips, seven final-four berths, four state runner-up finishes, and a State Championship gives him the resume to turn this year’s team into another success.
Lady Dawgs at a glance
Last season’s record: 16-13, finished 3rd in District 7-A. The Lady Bulldogs advanced out of the conference tournament, but fell in the first round of the Region 4-A tournament to Friendship Christian.
Projected starting lineup: Ashley Owens (Sr.-W, 12 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Olivia Copeland (Sr.-P, 3.7 ppg. 2.9 rpg), Ruby Richarrds (Sr.-PG), Kalona Meadows (Sr.-W), and Kennedy Smith (Jr.-P).
Key reserves: Kaitlin McClain (Fr.-PG), Riley Edwards (Soph.-P), and Chanah Sherrell (Soph.-W).
Keys to season: “We must be able to score consistently by shooting a decent percentage,” Sims said. “Our post players have to be able to score in one-on-one situations, we must limit turnovers–especially ones leading to lay-ups on the other end, and since we are small we must do a good job rebounding.”
What fans can expect to see: “I would like to be able to press and run, but I’ll have to see how we do those things first,” Sims said. “Defensively, we’ll play a matchup zone most of the time.
“I hope we are able to execute our offenses and make shots, because if we can score consistently we can play with most teams.”
Teams to beat in the district: “Clarkrange (#1) and Jackson County (#2) will again be the teams to beat, because they both return a lot of players that were good last year,” Sims said. “They are two of the best teams in the state and Pickett (#3) returns practically everybody from last year’s team too.”