Lady Lions head into 2013
Basketball season resumes Saturday at home
Team's new identity reveals a balanced attack
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University women’s basketball team is heading into the second half of the season this weekend.
The Lady Lions carry a 4-10 mark into Saturday’s afternoon game with the University of St. Thomas visiting the Sheaffer Center. It will be the first basketball broadcast of this season by SAGU Sports Live.
Veteran Head Coach Arlon Beadles, who achieved a milestone in career victories with a December win at Dallas Christian College, has several challenges.
The first two were present when the season began in November:
SAGU began the season having to fill a clear void at forward and center. Three starters were gone from last winter.
A very young backcourt in 2012 grew in experience but the need to elevate the point guard position was evident.
Those two areas have seen inspirational improvement.
Sophomore Cordia Harvatin (San Antonio, Tx / Stacey HS) has stepped up her game at forward while sophomore Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) and junior Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) have more than made the grade at the pivot.
The play of sophomore Okievia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS) guard and freshman wing Jessica Sodich (Arlington, Tx / Ovilla Christian) continues to produce.
Inserting freshman Taylor Hill (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) into the line-up at point guard was a bold move. It enabled Coach Beadles to move top-scorer Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JC, Lakeview Centennial HS) from the 1-guard role to the two or three.
Then a December 1st injury brought a new test that became an in-season focus.
Winston, a junior and All-Conference performer a year ago, was hurt early in a home contest with Jarvis Christian College.
Scoring over 17 points per game (ppg) at the time, the 5-foot-8 guard will likely not suit up again until next season.
Reshuffling a line-up that was largely fixed on the scoring and playmaking of Winston has now shifted to searching for a new team identity.
The early results offer plenty of promise for a team with a sixteen game itinerary awaiting.
The lab where building the squad’s chemistry will be formed is on the road. Following the 2:00pm matinee against St. Thomas (5-7 overall, 3-3 in RRAC), SAGU has five straight away games.
Three of the foes have losing records; Northwood University (1-13), Jarvis (3-7) and Texas College (2-12).
By the time the Lady Lions return home to face Bacone College (3-6) on January 26, the team will have the benefit of closing the season with eight of ten games at home.
On-going strengths the Purple Pride can count on are their defensive prowess as well as veteran leadership from the coaching staff of Beadles and Assistant Kory Henry.
Proof positive building blocks
The Lady Lions are yielding just 64 points per game, which is fifth best in the Red River Athletic Conference. Rebounding has solidified with the new cast. They average 38 per game, one more than the opposition. The 37 boards they permit are fifth best in the league.
The offense has improved from scoring 50.8 a year ago to 59.0, the fruit of better distribution of the ball. Shooting accuracy has risen from last in the RRAC (.345) in 2011-12 to .380 this year, ranking sixth among twelve teams.
SAGU is also making 2.5 fewer turnovers than last season.
Hill, a highly-competitive newcomer, is leading the team in scoring with an 11.2 ppg average. Bratchett is second, toting an 8.2 norm, much improved over last year’s 3.4 avg. Both guards are speed merchants and are co-leaders in assists with 37 apiece.
Hankins has proven to be a warrior in the paint. She continues to play while rehabbing a prior shoulder ailment.
Asserting growl in the lane and on the perimeter, she can be a difference-maker, evidenced by her 29 point outing at the University of the Southwest. She has reached double-figures in five games.
The Boomer Sooner grabs 7.1 boards per game while playing just 22 minutes. She leads the team in blocked shots. On offense she tosses in 8.1 ppg with a team-best 60% field goal percentage.
Three bucketeers with emerging 'game'
Another three players all account for six points per outing; Sodich (6.3), Harvatin (6.2) and Cox (6.0). Sodich has good range and is one of the best at creating shots. Harvatin has upped her shooting touch by over 10% as well as her production from beyond the arc and on the foul line.
Cox, a 6-foot-1 post player, is latching on to 10.0 rebounds per game and leads the club in steals per minute.
If any or each in this trio emerges down the stretch, the Lady Lions could enjoy an upsurge in competing for a berth in the RRAC tournament.
SAGU is believing for better marks from Bethany Krock (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian), Brittany Griffin (Rockwall, Tx / Rockwall Christian), Andrea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS), Shaina Tanks (Spring Branch, Tx / Smithson Valley HS) and Mallorie Lough (Brownsboro, Tx / Brownsboro HS).
Each is contending for stronger roles and more minutes in the current rotation.