Portland West looking to rely on chemistry this season

Submitted photo The Portland West Lady Panthers only return one starter, but the team is working on developing a strong chemistry this year. Pictured from left to right are: (top row): Gisel Aguilar, Lexie Williams, Karlee Clayton, Savanah Pippin, Gretchen McGuire, Zoe Neeld and Jaylen Presley; (middle): Avery Cranford, Eryn Cheney, Brooklynn Evans, Shelby Richards, Chelsie Kirk, Aryanna Cadwell and Alandreia Hodges; (bottom): Presley Futch, Lillie Whitehead and Domantra Paxton.

Making the transition from one coach to a new one can be tough, especially for middle school players. But Rachel James has made the move easier after taking over for Casey Dove as the new girls basketball coach at Portland West.

“I think it helped that I was here last season,” James said recently. “I coached the B team and helped Casey with the eighth-graders. I knew what the girls were bringing to the table and they know how I operate the team.”

The Panther girls have one starter back in Lillie Whitehead. But James likes the mixture of experience and younger players on the team.

“One of the strengths of this team is playing together, and are eager to get better,” James commented. “We have a great mixture of experienced and young players.”

Besides Whitehead, James has seven players that will be in the rotation this winter.

“We look for Lexie Williams, Savannah Pippin as well as Lillie to bring leadership to the team this season,” James said. “Aryanna Cardwell and Jaylon Presley will provide our behind the scenes hustle plays. We have Gretchen McGuire, Domantra Paxon and Avery Cranford who can give us a spark off the bench.”

James likes this team in terms of having the desire to win and to learn new things that will help the girls reach that goal.

“My expectations for the season is to teach the girls the fundamentals of a good basketball player. We want to give them all the skills needed to be competitive in each game we play,” James explained.

James will change up some things in the style of play that West fans have been accustom to over the years.

“We are keeping some things and changing some things based on the skill level of our girls versus last year.”

James didn’t have a preseason favorite in the county this year, but noted that several teams could be in the mix for a county title come January.

“There are a lot of new coaches that are bringing new styles to each of their teams,” James pointed out. “I’m anxious to see who it will be this season. I think it will be a battle with a few teams.”

 

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