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Harding Academy Lady WildcatsPublished October 27, 2013 at 4:00 a.m.
Coach: Rusty Garner, 11th year at Harding Academy, 7th season as head coach
Career record: 118-59
Assistant coach: Jon Newby
2012-2013 record: 21-10 overall; 8-2 conference
Returning starters: “We’re returning all five starters,” Garner said. Riley Rose, 5-9 junior guard, 17.7 points per game, 4 assists per game and 3 steals per game; Kaylin Turley, 5-8 junior guard, 4.7 ppg, 2.2 apg and 3 spg; Anna Lowery, 5-6 senior guard, 7.1 ppg; Shelby Gowen, 5-9 senior guard/forward, 7.2 ppg and 4.5 rpg; Haley Smith, 5-11 junior forward/center, 10.5 ppg and 5.6 rpg.
Best inside players: “Smith, as well as senior Carley Ramsey (5-7), junior Shelby Koch (5-11); sophomores Ally Newby (5-11), Allison Lester (6-0) and Ally Davis (5-9) could all contribute in some way inside,” Garner said.
Best outside players: “Rose, Turley, Lowery, Gowen as well as senior Carrie Stewart (5-5) all bring something different to our team,” Garner said.
How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year? “[We] would certainly like to improve over last season. [We’ll] need to develop more scoring, defend better, rebound better and improve at the foul line. If we do those things, we can have success this season,” Garner said.
Team strengths: “Experience. We return all five starters and move up three starters from a conference and district championship junior high team a year ago,” the coach said. “[Also] size — we will be bigger than we have been in the last 4 seasons. This is a great group of girls that love each other, value one another more than themselves and are genuinely interested in representing their families, their school and God.”
Team weaknesses: “Rebounding and free-throw shooting were a struggle at times last season. We must defend better as well as rebound and shoot free throws better than in 2012-13.”
Games to watch: Cabot tournament, Beebe tournament and all of the local conference games.
Toughest opponent: Riverview, Bald Knob, Rose Bud and tournament opponents.
College prospects: Riley Rose, two-time all-state, All Arkansas Preps Female Athlete of the Year in 2012-13, has had numerous Division I and Division II scholarship offers, Garner said. Also, Haley Smith, who was an all-conference player as a sophomore, is drawing NCAA Division II and NAIA interest.
In a nutshell: “An outstanding group of young women that will do their best to represent their school, their families and God to the best of their abilities. Long, athletic, great chemistry, selfless, deep, hard-playing girls that are fun to watch and a blessing to coach.”