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The Manning High School varsity girls basketball team had another impressive season last year, and the Lady Monarchs are returning a lot of that fire power for the 2019-20 season.
Last year, the Lady Monarchs finished 22-6, before their season came to an end in the second round of the 3A state playoffs. They return all but two of their key rotational players, including their top scorers from last year in Measha Jones - who the SCBCA has ranked as one of the top five seniors in 3A - and Myisha Smiling. That returning fire power has the Lady Monarchs ranked second in the 2A SCBCA preseason polls.
"With those two returning we'll have some great leadership," said MHS head coach Darren Mayzck. "We have a good mix of returning players, then we have some athletic guards this year that can score a little bit. Their outside shooting, if it can be consistent, can open things up a little bit for our posts on the inside."
A new season will come with some slightly changed roles and some fresh faces. In the past, Jones split time between playing guard and forward, but she'll spend more time down low this season with Smiling and Star Logan. Freshman La'tavius Wilson and sophomore Staclyn Bell will take over the two guard spots, and Mayzck thinks they can provide a spark from long range.
"We should have a little more scoring on the outside," said Mazyck. "The last couple of years we weren't really consistent with the outside shot, and we ran into games where teams switched defenses and tried to put a clamp on Myisha and that caused us to struggle a little bit. I hope that we can be a little more consistent on the outside and that should open up things a little bit more.
"Measha Jones will still be a starter, but we're going to move her to the low post, as well," continued the Manning head coach. "She's one of those players that she was a little bit of a guard and a little bit of a forward."
Mazyck thinks that outside shooting could be the key to players like Smiling and Jones taking their games to the next level, as they'll have a little more room to work with in the post.
"That gives them a little more space," said the Manning head coach. "Myisha and Star move pretty well around the basket and this will give them a little more room to work with as far as attacking the basket or working with their backs to the basket."
While a lot of eyes are on players like Jones and Smiliing, who each averaged double-doubles last season, Mazyck is looking for some of the lesser known players to help push this team past where it was last season. Players like Wilson, freshman Essence James and Tajabreonca Dow should make a big impact this season.
"Those young ladies, I expect a lot from them. They may not be the big key players, but they're going to be the foundation of what we're trying to build," said Mazyck. "They're small in size, but you can't compare their heart. They're going to play with a tremendous amount of heart and passion. They love the game of basketball."
With the amount of returning talent on this team, the Lady Monarchs have high expectations.
"Expectations are always high," said Mazyck. "We play good and tough non-region before once we get into our region (VII) schedule, and all that will prepare us for the playoffs."
While expectations are high, Mazyck stressed that he doesn't want his team to put any unnecessary pressure on itself.
"I want them to play within themselves, but don't put any added pressure. Just take it one game at a time and be the best that they can be."
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