|District 12-4A action begins for Sulphur Springs Lady Cats|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Jan. 5, 2006 - The Sulphur Springs Lady Cats will know quickly how they stack up against the best teams in District 12-4A.
Sulphur Springs will open district play against the two favorites, Texas High and North Lamar, starting Friday. Those were two of the district's three playoff teams from a year ago.
The Lady Cats (8-12) will host Texas High on Friday, with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m., then visit North Lamar on Tuesday, the site of last year's 79-point loss.
But, this SSHS team appears to be peaking at the right time. They have won four of their last five games and eight of the last 14, and head coach Tina Carrillo sees the improvement.
"In four of the last five games, we've been victorious," said Carrillo. "It's good to know that you're going uphill when you go into district."
Their recent roll coincided with the decision by junior post Cresha Hubbard, who was leading the team in scoring and rebounding, to quit. Since her departure, several younger players have blossomed with increased playing time.
Sophomore post Starkeisha Wright was inserted into the starting lineup and has averaged 8.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and more than two blocked shots per game during that time. Along with her, sophomore forward Stephanie Connally has also become increasingly dependable, averaging 6.2 points and 9.0 rebounds the last five games.
Then, there is reliable senior Bridgette Nash, who has four double-doubles in the last five games and is averaging 20.0 points and 11.6 rebounds during that span. Classmate Whitney Jordan has bucketed 9.2 points and handed out 4.0 assists over the last five games, also.
To post wins in district, the Lady Cats will need all eight players contributing, including defensive specialist Kaytlin Black, freshman point guard McKenzie Cross, junior guard Emily Bouyear and sophomore guard Shardae Jones.
The Lady Cats went winless last year in district play, so winning one of their first two games would give them not only confidence, but a leg up in the race for a playoff spot.
The race is wide open. Only North Lamar (12-9) has a winning record at the start of the 12-4A schedule. The Pantherettes will visit Paris (11-11) on Friday, while Mount Pleasant (8-10) goes to Greenville (0-17).
North Lamar went unbeaten in district play a year ago on the way to a 23-6 record. While the Pantherettes don't have the same firepower they had last year, they are still the favorite until someone beats them.
Texas High (9-10) finished second last year with a 8-2, 24-8 record, and returns almost all of its starters, including leading scorer Miracle Thurston and All-District player Brittany McCoy.
Mount Pleasant finished 6-4 in district last season and returns its best player, Jasmine King, who was the 12-4A Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
Paris continues to improve since going winless two seasons ago. The Lady Wildcats have already won more games this year than they did during last year's 9-19 campaign.
Then, there is Greenville, which is still looking for its first win of the season. The Lady Lions are playing without LaQuinta Ross, the squad's best returning player who is nursing a shoulder injury.
But, Carrillo knows the Lady Cats can't look past anyone. They have to be ready to play Texas High on Friday.
"We'll see what we can do against them, and see if we can make some adjustments to stop Miracle. We'll see," she said. "We're not expected to beat that team, but I'm convinced we can beat that team.
"We play well at home - that's a plus for us - and I'll think we'll be tough to beat."