Photo courtesy of al.com
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
If nothing else, the 2021 Gadsden State womens basketball team won’t be boring to watch.
Head coach Bryan Phillips set a goal of 40 three-point shot attempts per game this season, which translates into a heavy workload for the Lady Cardinals’ many sharpshooters.
“If we shoot the ball well, we’ll be hard to deal with,” he said. “I’ve got a solid eight players that’s built on penetrating the lane and kicking it out to shoot 3’s. That’s going to be our bread and butter.”
In four out of the five of its fall scrimmages, Gadsden State shot 38 percent from the three-point line and 54 percent from the field.
“If we can keep those percentages four out of five games, I’ll be happy with it. It we shoot 19 percent and 30 percent like we did in the fifth game, we’ll be in trouble. Our staring post player [Bri Hodges] tore her ACL, so we’re basically playing small ball. We’ll play some zone and mix and match a swap-in man on defense. We play such good half court [defense] that I don’t feel like we need to press that much. The risk is higher than the reward at this time, because I don’t to get people in foul trouble.”
Phillips is literally building from scratch in his second year, as he has no returning players from the 2019-20 team. The Lady Cardinals went 12-15 last season, 5-6 in Alabama Community College Conference action, and lost in the ACCC/Region XXII Tournament semifinals to eventual state champion Shelton State.
“We’re all new, but the girls have brought into what we’re doing and have done what I’ve asked them to do,” he said. “I think this group has got something special, because they can potentially be together basically for three years.”
A high offseason priority for Phillips was identifying and signing players who were fundamentally sound.
“That way, you can focus on fine-tuning the small things they need to work on,” he said. “At this level of basketball, you shouldn’t have to spend a whole lot of time teaching fundamentals, and I found myself doing that way too often last year.”
Sophomore forward Zoee Sitz, who was the team’s manager last season, is a member of the above rotation. She had not played basketball since her freshman year in junior varsity at Southside High School, but due to a lack of numbers in the fall, Phillips put her on the roster. He was pleasantly surprised.
“It was amazing how much Zoee had blossomed as a player in roughly 60 days. She’s one of those players that if she’s hitting [shots] from a certain spot, she’s going to hit a lot from that spot. She’s also a great kid attitude-wise.”
Phillips also pointed to freshman point guards Brittany Rivera of Collinsville and Dee Guin of Huntsville as key players.
“Those two will probably be the ones who’ll carry the team all year long. Dee is potentially a DI point guard, and Brittany is DII or small DI. You talk about someone who is physical and strong, that’s Brittany.”
Rivera (pictured above) was selected as the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 2A Player of the Year after helping Collinsville win the Class 2A state championship. Both she and Chloe Womack, a member of Pisgah’s 2019-20 Class 3A state championship team, were named the MVPs of their respective state tournaments.
Filling out the roster is sophomore Makayla Phillips of Albertville and freshmen Maggie and Marie Woodall of Fyffe, Donachia Ramson of Deshler and Abbey Moon of Curry.
Although Gadsden State, like most conference teams, had lengthy break from their last scrimmage until the start of the season this week, Phillips feels that his team did not lose much in terms of conditioning. The Lady Cardinals open the season this Wednesday, Jan. 20, at home against Lurleen B. Wallace. Gadsden State begins conference play on Feb. 9 against Snead State. The ACCC Tournament is set for April 6-9 at Shelton State in Tuscaloosa.
“The good thing is that every one of my girls likes to work hard and get in the gym on their own, so they didn’t come back out of shape,” he said. “They did what they were supposed to do over the break. Some teams had 20 days off and some teams had 40 days, the key will be how each team adjusted to the break. Honestly, I think it will come down to which teams hold up better physically through February. I’ve got a solid eight-player rotation right now, and I’ve just got to keep them out of foul trouble and keep them healthy.”