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Basketball preview: OCHS Lady Colonels

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By Mickey Patterson

LAST YEAR
13-15, lost to Anderson County 67-55 first round of region tourney.
KEY LOSSES
All-region forward Emily Lape, forward Leah Pehlke and guard Brooke Leanhart.
BEST PLAYER
Ericka Hardin, 5-foot-9 senior guard who averaged 12 points and five rebounds a game last year.
OTHER RETURNEES
Emily Melton, 5-foot-5 junior guard, Jessica Leanhart, 5-foot-6 sophomore guard.
TEAM SLEEPER
Ashley McMurtrey, 5-foot-9 freshman forward.
OUTLOOK
Fans and opponents of the Lady Colonels may not want to blink their eyes this season because they just might miss something with the pace coach Steve Mullins plans to employ this year.
“We’re still young, but most of these kids have been in the system for a year and we are going to turn it up a notch higher,” Mullins said. We think we are going to have 10 kids who can play and they are all really fast. We have some kids that can flat out run and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Mullins has some good starting points, most notably in senior guard Ericka Hardin and junior Emily Melton.
Hardin is expected to be one of the region’s best this year after averaging 12 points and five rebounds a game last year running the point for the Lady Colonels.
“She has been phenomenal in the preseason,” Mullins said. “When she won homecoming queen this fall the girls said we are going to have speed, style and beauty this year.”
Melton compliments Hardin as one of the region’s best three-point shooters hitting 45 percent from behind the line last year while averaging 11 points a game.
Another big key for the Lady Colonels has been the emergence of 5-foot-9 freshman Ashley McMurtrey. McMurtrey saw varsity time last season and after a strong off season is ready to step up.
“I think she is going to amaze people this year with how much better she is,” Mullins said. “She is always in the gym and works harder than anybody and it will show this year.”
Adding to the firepower in the backcourt will be sophomore guard Jessica Leanhart who averaged 6.5 points a game last year and “is probably the fastest player I have every coached,” Mullins said.
The Lady Colonels also have 5-foot-9 Rebecca Wishnevski and forward Shelby Rush to play inside. Rush is one of the team’s best defenders.
A pair of transfers are also expected to play big roles this year.
Sara Lopesilveri, a 5-foot-7 transfer from Shelby County and 5-foot-8 Kasey Hall from Tennessee are probably the team’s best natural athletes Mullins said.
Two freshmen, 5-foot-10 Bailey Middaugh and point guard Sammi Henderson are also expected to play.
The numbers will come in handy as OCHS expects to play just as fast on the defensive end of the floor.
“We don’t have any size so we are going to have to steal it and lay it in the basket,” Mullins said. “The trouble we had last year was we could trap, but not anticipate the pass out of the trap. We are fast enough and smarter to the point where we can do that this year.”