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Young Lady Eagles try to bring back glory of past years

[11/5/03]It’s the beginning of a new era at Porters Chapel Academy.

For the first time since 1996, the Lady Eagles aren’t entering the season as defending conference champions. And for the first time since 1998, there isn’t a player with the last name “Willis” on the roster.

Instead, there is a small group of young players who will build for the future while trying to keep PCA in its usual place among the MPSA’s basketball elite.

“It’s not really a transition because we lost so much, and that group that graduated last year were the ones that were used to winning everything,” PCA coach Kevin Griffin said. “It’s more of a rebuilding than a transition.”

The Lady Eagles only have eight players on the roster and had to move two ninth graders up from the junior high team to provide depth. Despite the low numbers, several players performed well last year and others seem prepared for breakout seasons.

Sophomore guard Annie Beaugh is the team’s top returning player. She averaged 27.7 points per game in leading the Lady Eagles to three straight wins at the Rebul tournament last week.

PCA will rely on Beaugh for the bulk of its offense, Griffin said.

“She’s definitely going to carry us. I feel like she’s one of the top three girls players in the state, in any classification in MPSA,” Griffin said. “She’s got skills. She knows how to put it on the floor and get to the goal off the dribble. During the summer she has developed the ability to shoot the ball off the dribble in either direction, which makes her a tougher threat.”

In addition to Beaugh, there are several other threats for PCA. Senior Allison Horn, who played previously at St. Aloysius and Tallulah Academy, is a solid scorer and defender.

Lauren Johnson, is playing basketball for the first time but had nine points in the season-opener against Union.

The biggest concerns for the Lady Eagles are the lack of depth and the extremely young players. Horn and Amy Rutledge are the team’s only seniors, and there are no juniors.

The two ninth-graders, Bailey Williams and Katie Ross, will also continue to play on the junior high team and will be limited to two quarters per game.

“We coaches are going to have to do a really good job of managing the game. Not only from a personnel standpoint, but from a tempo standpoint,” Griffin said. “We’ll have to mix up our defenses and play a lot of zone. That’s not my philosophy.

“I’m not a zone coach. But we’ve done a good job with it the first couple of games.”

If the first week of the season is any indication, the Lady Eagles just might make some noise this year. They won the three games at Rebul by an average of 27 points, and claimed impressive wins against solid teams from Rebul and Trinity.

Before the season, Griffin joked that the Lady Eagles might not win a game. After seeing them in action, he has changed his tune.

“We’re inexperienced, but already through the first (three) games the team we have is more disciplined as far as their willingness to run the offense, and I think that’s going to carry us a long way toward being a successful team this year,” Griffin said.