The 2011-12 basketball season isn’t until November, but the Lady Eagles at Hebron Christian School have already been hitting the court.
Head coach William Cotton, who replaced Greg Watkins, says there will be a new philosophy in the minds of the players, a key component that was missing from the a team that lost just five games last season.
“I’m trying to establish a new work ethic,” he said. “And become a little bit of a more high energy and high intensity basketball team. I’m a pressure coach. I believe you teach kids to apply pressure they can take pressure.”
Cotton knows a thing or two about the game. With roughly 40 years under his belt as a coach, including stops at West Oktibbeha, St. Joseph Catholic school and Carroll Academy, Cotton feels there is still room for improvement.
“One of our biggest weaknesses from last year was not being able to handle people pressuring us,” he said. “As far as walking down the court and playing offense and defense, the girls could play with anybody.”
But against the bigger schools, like Oak Hill and Leake, they struggled Cotton said.
“I think if we can work faster and move a little quicker, we’ll be able to handle that,” he said.
There is no question the Lady Eagles have had recent success; 28-5 in 2010-11, undefeated in district play and three of those five losses came against Oak Hill twice and Leake. Hebron ended their season in the state championship, falling to Delta 48-39.
Hebron however will be without the trio of seniors that carried the team; Hillary Arnold, who was dependable from distance, Cathryn Moore, another solid outside shooter and forward who averaged about 12 points a night and Magen Tapley, the teams top rebounder and strong defenseman.
But Cotton isn’t too concerned with filling those holes despite having just six players on the team; three seniors and three sophomores, ready to pick up right where left off. If anything, Cotton feels they will be much faster.
“We did not have a lot of speed last year, “ he said. “We’re going to be all speed this year. “I’ve got the girls in the weight room now strengthening their legs and building up their core strength.”
Although the team hasn’t set out their goals for this season, Cotton believes the expectations are simple; not only make the state tournament, but win it all. And their secret weapon - Tori Nichols.
At 6’3, Nichols will primarily play center, but Cotton said he wont hesitate to rotate her into a strong forward where she is capable of moving to the outside and shooting three-pointers, although it didn’t happen much last year. At the camp they attended weeks ago in
Greenville, Nichols was at times getting double teamed and triple teamed, and for her to have success Cotton said, she has to learn how to play under heavy pressure throughout a ball game.
“One of my goals for her is to sign a Division I scholarship,” Cotton said. “If she’s going to be able to sign, she’s going to have a to play a strong forward position. She’s a good all around ball-player.”
Cotton believes the girls can go undefeated, against 1A schools anyway. But even that will be a daunting task after the way they stormed through the regular season last year. Their district remains intact except for the absence of Immanuel Christian that jumped from 1A to 2A this season and the addition of Regents School in Oxford. But the top two teams will be Kemper and Winona.
“Our goal is to win the district,” Cotton said. “And hopefully we can go undefeated.”
Rewind back to the camp at Greenville, and Cotton noticed something that defined them immediately, and he knew he had a good basketball team.
“They showed me that even when they’re tired and worn out, they know where to go to find that extra energy that it takes to be a winner.”
The Lady Eagles start the new season October 24-29 with a preseason tournament at Winona.View more articles in: