Washington girls look to take another step forward under Jones

Published 1:29 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
For the first time in four years the Washington girls’ basketball team will have the same coach at the helm for the season opener as it did in the previous year’s season finale.
In the 2007-08 season, first-year coach Allison Jones inherited a team that struggled the year before and guided the crew to a 13-13 record and a trip to the playoffs.
This year, Jones is looking to build on that, and should benefit from having players that already know the system. However, the Pam Pack have to find a way to make up for the absence of WDN All-Area first team center Samantha Smith who graduated.
While Smith is gone, Washington returns its starting backcourt in juniors Hayley Stowe and Harmony Simpkins.
Both players had exceptional seasons last year, and are expected to play a big role for this year’s club.
Helping bolster the guard position is two-time WDN All-Area first team senior guard Jordan Cantrell, who transferred from Terra Ceia.
With Stowe sidelined due to medical issues, Cantrell and Simpkins will start in the backcourt for the Pack.
Jones said that the team’s perimeter players will be the backbone of the team.
There is no doubt Washington will get strong play from its backcourt, but the big question is can Davey Ann Burbage and Sharita Grice help make up for the loss of Smith in the post.
Jones feels the duo can step up to the challenge and provide points in the paint.
With Cantrell and Simpkins in the backcourt and Burbage and Grice in the post, the lone starting spot up for grabs will be at small forward.
Washington has several young candidates that can, and will see time at the three spot.
Batchelor, a sophomore, right now might have the edge because she has already had a year in Jones’ system, but breathing down her neck are freshman Teamber Burke and Rachel Cantrell, Jordan’s sister.
Burke is an outstanding athlete with good size, and is a prototypical prep swingman capable of shooting mid-range jumpers, rebounding and putting the ball on the floor. Cantrell has a solid outside shot and a good handle, but ideally would be better suited for the shooting guard position.
Batchelor, Burke and Cantrell should all split time, and their minutes will most likely be dictated on their match ups and whoever has the hot hand.
If Jones needs more of a defensive lineup, Palmer could also be a good choice to play small forward.
To adapt for the loss of Smith, Jones said she her offense will have more of a motion flavor to it, with the guards and forwards screening for one another.
On defense, the Pam Pack will utilize its guards and play aggressively.
Washington will be mixing up with Greene Central on Tuesday, when it plays its season opener on the road.