Rarely does a team graduate four starting seniors from a single team in a single season of high school basketball. Even rarer, is when those four seniors have played on the same team together since the fifth grade. This was the headline of the 2011 Harmony Grove Lady Cardinals. New Harmony Grove Head Coach John White was welcomed by a strong and talented team in his first year over the Lady Cardinals in 2011.
But, now with Morgan Ramsey, Torie Simmons, Macy Coffee and Haley Burnett all in college, White has to regroup and rebuild a little coming into this season. The four combined for over 500 points scored and 20 double-digit individual scoring games a season ago.
Luckily, White has a ton of senior and junior leadership returning, including starting point guard Laura Britt and scrappy guard Lauren Dempsey.
“Our seniors have done a good job (in the offseason,)” White said. They have worked really hard and have led the way. They want something to show for this year.”
White added that his club may not be as talented offensively as it was last year, with the loss of the four seniors, but he doesn’t think that will affect the team.
“We are determined to prove something,” White said.
The 2012 Lady Cardinals have a core of talent coming back from last season, and also coming up from the junior high level. Girls that received significant playing time returning to the court from last season’s squad other than Britt and Dempsey are utility player Lexa Carpenter, powerful post player Molly White and talented guard Katie Wright.
“Obviously, Britt and Dempsey stand out because they are returning starters with a lot of experience,” White said. “You also have to look at Carpenter and White this year, too.”
But, that is not the only big positive to this year’s team. Sophomore, multi-sport athlete Kristen Dempsey, along with sophomore Sarah Jackson, will also join White’s team in 2012. Dempsey was the go-to shooter for the Junior Lady Cardinals last season, with Jackson cleaning things up inside on the junior high level.
“Kristen Dempsey and Jackson can do some good things for us this season,” White said. “We also have some good juniors that will compete for us. But the big thing is that we have to see someone else (game wise.)”
Looking ahead to the season, White has turned his focus to getting better on offense and utilizing the added speed on this year’s club.
“I feel like we have been working really hard and are anxious to play someone else,” White said.
Just like every season, the changes come in the offseason when a year ends whether it is good or bad. For White and the Lady Cardinals, now that he is in his second year and has made his presence known, White has his eye on some special things with this team.
“I think this season is quite a bit different,” White said. “We are looking at everyone to contribute a little bit more instead of relying on just a few players so hard. We have a little bit different offense and we are trying to do more things defensively.”
White also added that while nothing is easy, his concern is will his team be able to score the ball more?
“The only part that is easier is the expectation level,” White said. “They know what I expect now. But, from a game standpoint, nothing really gets easier.”
Playing in one of the strongest conferences in the state in the 5-3A, the Lady Cardinals have a tough and competitive road ahead of them. White pointed out that Jessieville is the “top dog” and will be until someone knocks them off. But, while the Lady Lions are the top team to start the season, Fountain Lake and Glen Rose pose tough threats to the Lady Cardinals in 2012 as well.
“After Jessieville, it looks to be a very good league,” White said. “We know a lot about Fountain Lake and Glen Rose and they are both going to have a pretty good core coming back.”
The conference welcomes a few new teams this year, making the league even harder. E-Stem and Perryville bring strong, athletic teams to the 5-3A in 2012 and White has already observed what both can bring to the table.
“E-Stem has a good point guard and a big girl inside,” White said. “With Perryville coming in and Mayflower bringing in a great group of freshmen, it should be a good league.”
White added that he thinks it could be a “toss-up” after Jessieville.
The Lady Cardinals begin their season tonight when they hit the road to Poyen. The Lady Indians made easy work of Harmony Grove in the opener last season, beating the Lady Cardinals 63-46 on Harmony Grove’s home court. White hopes to turn the tables to start this season. Opening tip is set for 6 p.m.