Expectations are high once again for the Lady Raiders at Oak Hill Academy.
When you finish third in the state and win back-to-back district titles, the only thing left to do is bring home a state championship.
“Our expectations year in and year out for quite awhile have been the same,” head coach Stan Hughey said. “We want to win a gold ball. There’s never been a championship team in girls basketball even though there’s been a lot of good teams. We want to win the state and that’s what we shoot for.”
The road to Clinton this season starts with a more competitive and expanded district schedule as well as another tough non-district slate that kicks off with Jackson Academy at the Canton Invitational November 2.
District 2AA competition has been the bread and butter for Oak Hill over the last two seasons, going undefeated in junior high and varsity. It’s certainly a little stronger this year Hughey said.
Leake, Immanuel and Canton have been added, replacing Carroll who was moved to district 1AA. Leake, a softball power over the years, are also the reigning girls AA champions. Winston has a new coach and Canton is expected to be a contender and is loaded with pure athletes.
“In a four team district, you can’t afford to stump your toe,” Hughey said. “If you get a loss, you don’t have a lot of time to make it up.”
Non conference opponents include some of the top AA teams including North Delta, Kirk, Indianola, Simpson Lamar and of course Golden Triangle rivals Starkville Academy and Heritage.
“We’re excited about it, but we have a lot of work to do,” Hughey said.
After losing just a pair of seniors, Kayla Hill and Paige Dawkins, the
Lady Raiders bring back three all-district selections, Anna Ready, Rachel Herndon and Tori Ellis, from a season ago on a seasoned team with plenty of depth and post season experience.
“The biggest thing we’re missing right now with Kayla and Paige, was how smart they were with being a senior and knowing how to play,” Hughey said. “But I think a lot of that with these girls will come with just experience.”
Maegen Ellis returns after playing as a freshman last season and junior Shay Atkins hopes to follow up with her successful turnaround over the summer. Atkins, who is very physical, could play a key role in Oak Hill’s inside game.
Seniors Sophie Miller, Codi Williams and Susan Mitchell have paid their dues over the years, and are looking to finish their careers on a high note.
In most cases, however, there are more important factors to having a good season.
“If we can stay healthy and play good at the right time,” Hughey said. “Those are always the keys to getting far along into the season.”
And last year, the Lady Raiders did play their best ball at the right time.
Kirk for example and defeated Oak Hill three out of four times last season, that only loss came when it matter most at the state tournament.
With so much experience coming back, there is no question Oak Hill will have the targets on their backs this season despite the district reshuffle. Right now though, the girls want to take it a game at a time.
“We just want to play to our expectations,” Hughey said. “My number one goal as a coach is to have a bunch of girls who play extremely hard. That’s the biggest compliment I can get from an opposing coach. If we do that, we’re going to win a lot of ball games.”View more articles in: