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Lady Saints go marching towards state

Coach Anthony Harris’ team has racked up awards and accolades to What the Lady Saints have done over the last couple of months has been remarkable.

Loaded with depth, scoring balance and even a little showmanship, the Saints have taken on all comers and left with their heads high. They’ve earned a 26-1 record, they swept every team in Montgomery, they’ve beaten teams coming from behind and blown teams out from the opening tip. And as the playoffs begin next week, the Lady Saints will likely enter as the top-ranked team in 6A.

They’re led by seniors, juniors, sophomores and a freshman that can hit from just about anywhere on the court.

In short, coach Anthony Harris’ team is loaded and loving it.

“It’s just fun,” says point guard Ashley Green who often looks like a kid in a candy store as she tries to pick which scorer to feed the ball to on a fast break. “It’s fun to work with everybody.

If you give the ball to them, you know they’re going to score. It just makes my job easy.”

Being able to play balanced team ball makes everybody’s life a little easier on the Saints.

On a normal team, junior forward Santana Seay would face a variety of box and one, double team and other exotic defenses to shut her down.

But against the Saints, sending a special defense at Seay means another player is going to be open and as the silky smooth forward says, “everybody can score.”

That includes fab freshman Erica Lumpkin who routinely hits from outside the arc, opening up the inside game for the upper classmen. Still a youngster, Lumpkin looks like a senior when she plays.

But she says her teammates have a lot to do with making her look good.

“I don’t know everything,” she says. “There’s some things I don’t know that they know and they help me.”

With Lumpkin hitting on the outside, senior Kim Wilson gets a chance to roam the middle.

Though she still draws double teams, having the players around her that can shoot has made a huge difference.

“People double team a lot, so it’s good to have my outside guards for help,” Wilson says. “I can dish it out at any time. I’ve got faith in them that they’re going to make the shot.”

According to the girls, the Saints have had the talent for some time, but the arrival of Harris this season has helped them reach their potential.

“We’ve always had the talent and the coaching staff,” senior Keshee Dozier says. “Now we’re really working hard to push ourselves to be better.”

Harris helped his players push themselves.

He’s tough and he makes the team work but they’ve responded.

“He did a great job for this program,” Green says. “He coaches with discipline, he gives the team a little more motivation.

He’s tough, but it’s all for the good.”

Green’s teammate Shemeka Simpson agrees.

“It’s great,” she says. “It’s hard, but it’s worth it. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of how far I’ve come from last year being cut. With him there’s no giving up, he’s teaching us how to be strong.”

Harris said he’s been pleased with the girls’ work ethic.

“They don’t mind coming here in the gym. They practice everyday,” Harris says. “They have taken some beatings under me as far as working their tails hard.”

With the playoffs set to start in Selma on February 6, Harris is getting his team ready.

“I want to stay focused,” Harris says. “We’ve got some things we need to work on. We’re going to go back to basics.

Our free throws have been very poor and turnovers have been a big problem for us all year.”

The girls have different approaches on how to treat the upcoming playoffs.

Simpson says she isn’t looking past the area while others like Seay and Dozier have permitted themselves to peak ahead.

Still, they all say they’re going to treat the upcoming tournaments like it’s a new season.

“We take them one day at a time, day-by-day,” Wilson says.

“We’re trying to stay focused every day,” Harris says. “Right now we just continue to work hard.

I know coming up it’s going to be 0-0. All that we’ve done over the last couple of months is not going to mean anything.”

But if the Saints keep on marching into March like they tore through November, December and January, there’s a good chance they’ll be cutting down the nets as state champs.

It’s an opportunity Harris hopes the girls will seize.

“These season don’t come around but one time,” he said. “You don’t want to say, ‘well, next year.'”