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Lady Barons relying on experience, discipline in 2006-2007
|Sophomore Lady Baron Kenyatta Gatling (#31) is guarded by two Edward Waters players as Senior Lady Baron Monique Martin (#1) prepares to shoot a two-pointer during the Nov. 4 home game against Edward Waters College, during the 2006 Days Inn/Tip-Off Classic hosted by Brewton-Parker College. (Photo by Nicole Mathis/BPC News and Public Information staff photographer)
By Taylor Hereford
Director of Marketing
MOUNT VERNON – When Sheila Simmons looks back on her first three years as head women’s basketball coach at Brewton-Parker College, she can find a lot to be proud of.
Back-to-back trips to the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. Two-time Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament runners-up. A combined team record of 82-21.
So how could a team that lost its entire starting five from last year be ranked third in this year’s SSAC preseason coaches poll?
“It’s a testament to the strength and tradition of women’s basketball at Brewton-Parker,” said Simmons. “A lot of great athletes and coaches have contributed to this program’s success over the years. We are hoping to continue to build on those contributions and have another successful season.”
Replacing the entire starting five would appear to be a daunting task to most head basketball coaches. But not Simmons. She knows most of her players may not have had much playing time last season, but believes they make up for it in experience and discipline – two traits that will go a long way in determining the team’s success this year.
“This particular group of players seems to have a lot more team discipline,” said Simmons. “Discipline plays a major role in bringing continuity to a team and will allow the players to gel a lot quicker. In addition, most of this year’s team may not have had much playing time so far, but the experience they gained from guarding last year’s seniors will help us out tremendously as well.”
The biggest bright spot on the Lady Barons’ roster this season is the addition of Division I standout Monique Martin, a 5’11” senior guard who transferred from Middle Tennessee State University. Martin, who originally signed with the University of Georgia to play for the Lady Dogs, was instrumental in Middle Tennessee State capturing the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship and winning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament last season.
“Monique is as versatile as they come,” said Simmons. “She can play every position on the floor and has the ability to score at will but can also defend and rebound extremely well.”
In addition to Martin, the Lady Barons’ roster boasts several key returning players who are looking to make an impact this season. Returning seniors Shawnique Johnson and Christina Braswell will be counted upon to provide leadership both on and off the court for a fairly young Lady Barons squad.
“Shawnique was instrumental in our success last season,” said Simmons. “We look for Shawnique to have a great year. Christina is a great shooter and works hard at all times. She can open up the lane for our point guards with her ability to knock down the long-range shot.”
Simmons is also counting on two other returning players to have successful seasons for the Lady Barons: sophomores Monica Hunter and Kanyatta Gatling. Both will be key to the Lady Barons having a presence inside.
Hunter, a 5’10” forward from Montgomery, Ala., “brings hard work and a relentless attitude to our team,” Simmons said. “She is working hard and is ready to step up.”
Gatling, a 6’2” center from Griffin, “will be expected to give us the needed presence on the inside – both offensively and defensively,” Simmons said. “She will be instrumental in helping us be successful.”
As for an overall game plan for the season, Simmons said nothing will change. The Lady Barons will continue an aggressive, up-tempo style of play relying heavily on defensive pressure.
“In the last two years we have led the country in forced turnovers and have been first or second in steals,” said Simmons. “So our style of play is not going to change. However, with such a young group this year, a balance will have to be found as to how aggressive our play can be.”
In looking within the conference this season, Simmons said the competition has gotten a lot stronger, with each team improving greatly during the off-season.
“Our conference schedule is going to be the toughest it’s been in a while,” said Simmons. “Lee, AUM (Auburn University-Montgomery), and Berry have always had outstanding women’s basketball programs. This year will be no different. The rest of the conference has stepped up as well. It’s going to be a banner year for the SSAC in women’s basketball.”
The Lady Barons opened their season this past weekend at home in the Days Inn/BPC Tip-Off Classic. In Friday night’s contest against Webber International, Monique Martin’s “double double” of 28 points and 11 rebounds led the Lady Barons as Brewton-Parker rolled 71-49. Shelby Pauling added 10 points in the win. On the second day of action, Martin again had a big game, scoring 35 points and grabbing 9 rebounds while Candice Clark added 13 points as the Lady Barons pulled away from Edward Waters College 83-70.
Their next home game will be Saturday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. against Morris College. All home games are played in the Gillis Gymnasium inside the Bartow and Jean Snooks Student Activities Center.
Season tickets are still on sale for the 2006-2007 season. A “Baron Booster Package” is available for $60 and comes with one ticket for all 27 Baron and Lady Baron home games, and includes seating behind the scorer’s table, access to the Hall of Fame Hospitality Room and more. Additional packages can be purchased for $40. For more information on basketball season ticket packages, contact Steve Barker, BPC Athletic Director, at 912-583-3178 or 1-800-342-1087 ext. 178.