By Matthew Martin /Sports Correspondent
Gadsden State women’s basketball team won more than 20 games a season ago and came within a few minutes from defeating Shelton State, which went on to win the region tournament and qualify for nationals.
Shelton State is one of the favorites to win the conference title again, while the Lady Cardinals lost several players to graduation from that 24-8 squad.
So, it would be no surprise if Gadsden State struggled early in the 2013-14 season until the freshmen replacements got adjusted to junior-college basketball.
The Lady Cardinals have done just the opposite, however.
Gadsden State (6-2) opened the young season in dominant fashion, with four straight victories by an average score of 90-35.
The Lady Cardinals went 1-2 at the Tallahassee Invitational Tournament over the Thanksgiving break.
“We’ve been able to get big leads,” Gadsden State head coach John Butts said. “We’ve been lucky. We’ve played a few teams where we’ve built big leads and been able to play everyone.”
The one area that Butts is concerned with is the new rules, which officials call the game much closer on defenders.
“We’ve gone back to basics, eighth-grade stuff,” Butts said about the team’s defensive approach in learning the new rules. “Our defense has been good, though. In years past, we tried to turn over teams. This year, we’ve been good, just not in a turnover way.”
Butts is thrilled with the start, though, especially considering he switched his playcalling, changing to the triangle offense. But the Lady Cardinals have taken to the offense quickly, led by three sophomores and a productive group of freshmen.
Gadsden State is led by a pair of sophomores in forward Taylor Adams and point guard Lacey Buchanon, who last month signed with Troy.
Buchanon, who was a first team All-Region 22 selection last season, currently is the conference’s top scorer at 17.1 points points per game. She also ranks first in assists (7.2) and field goal percentage (49.0). Buchanon is also averaging 4.5 rebounds, and 162 steals per game.
Adams currently is the conference’s top rebounder with 12.4 per game and is second in field goal percentage at 60 precent. She is averaging 12.2 points.
“Attacking the basket and throwing the ball into the paint is huge for what we are trying to do,” Butts said.
Other leaders include freshman guard Taylor Frazier (12.1 points per game); freshman guard Shuntece Catlin (7.0 points) and sophomore center Calishia Parker (9.1 points, 7.6 rebounds per game).
Another freshman, Carla Simmons, is averaging 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and is second in the conference with 3.0 blocks per game.
“With Carla, we can already see it, she came in so well-coached,” Butts said. “She has two bulging discs, so we are spot playing her until she is healthy. Freshman-wise, Carla came in ready to play.”
The team also features Hokes Bluff sophomore guard Savannah Ward, who is averaging 2.6 points per game.