Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

SPORTS>> Lady Devils using Classic to prepare for conference

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils embark upon their between-semester holiday tournament play with a still-diminished roster. Still missing are two guards that should have a big impact for the guard-shallow team next week when conference play gets started, but for now, the Lady Devils will begin play in the Red Devil Classic with a post-game mentality. They begin the tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday against Melbourne. First-year Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms, who was not involved in selecting teams for the tournament, doesn’t know much about Melbourne, but expects a tough game.

“It’s a really small school and teams like that don’t come to these big-school tournaments unless they think they can compete,” Mimms said. “I’m sure they’ll be a very good team. Right now though we’re working on Jacksonville. We have to get ready for conference, and that’s what we’re going to be focused on in this tournament.” The vast majority of Jacksonville’s offensive point production has come from the inside play of seniors Tarneshia Scott and Marie Livings. The guards have been adequate and given a valiant effort, but none are true point guards and that has been a weakness that the team will try to play through this week.

“I feel like we have good guards, just not a point guard,” Mimms said. “The best ball handler right now is probably Tarneshia, but she’s too valuable down low. We’re going to get some people back for conference which will help, but it will sort of be like starting from square one in the middle of the season.” Last year’s starting point guard, Morgain Waits, has been out all season with a torn ACL. She has rehabilitated well and should be back by the first conference game next month. Brittany Smith will also return after the Christmas break. With the guard play on hold, Mimms would like to work on the two big players inside. Livings, who followed Mimms from North Pulaski last year, has been dressed down by her head coach more than once for lacking aggression, especially on the boards. This season has seen a steady increase in Livings’ tenacity in the rebounding department, but there are still things Mimms would like to see improve.

“She has definitely gotten more aggressive, but we also want to see her shoot better,” Mimms said. “We’ve been working on getting her to hit her first shot. She’s so big she can sometimes miss, get the rebound, miss, get it again, and just keep shooting. We want her to focus more and work on hitting that first shot. She tends to rush the shot when she gets it and she’s open.” Mimms has been working with Livings on defense as well, and thinks it will pay dividends in the 6A-East race.
“Another thing that I see improving with her is her defense,” Mimms said. “Defensively she’s been learning how to recognize guard penetration and how to slide over to help. Guards getting inside for layups has killed us at times this year and some of that is because we haven’t played good defense away from the ball. I think our pressure defense has been good, but we need to get better in halfcourt situations.”

This is Mimms’ first year coaching Scott, who is a three-year starter and has been the Lady Devils’ most steady and versatile player all three of those years. Scott lacks the quickness to play guard full-time, but has the ability to occasionally take her defender off the dribble and create her own shot. She can’t be left unattended on the wing either because she is a capable outside shooter. “What’s going to happen when we get all of our players is you’re going to see her with more opportunities to do some of the things we want her to do,” Mimms said. “She can do a lot of things, but she’s been limited because we’re short handed. We’re going to go ahead and try to keep her where we want her in this tournament and just focus on doing the things we’re going to do in conference. I feel like our guards are getting better and I think that will make the team better.”