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Quitman Lady BulldogsPublished October 27, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
Conference: 4-2A East
Coach: Tim Hooten, 1st year at school
Assistant coach: Jeff Adams
2012-2013 record: 12-13 overall, 6-4 in conference play
Returning starters: The stable won’t be completely bare for Hooten in his first season as coach. Hooten, who won a regional title as well as a first-round game in last year’s 2A state tournament as head coach at Bigelow, will have small forward Roseanna Ezell (5-foot-10) back for her senior season. Ezell, one of the team’s top players a year ago, showed a penchant for scoring, particularly late in the season. She scored a game-high 28 points in the Lady Bulldogs’ season-ending loss to Magazine during the regional tournament last season. Senior guard Caitlin Houston (5-5) returns to the team, as does senior forward Shayna Burklow (5-8).
Best inside players: Ezell, one of the more versatile players in 2A, will play several positions for the Lady Bulldogs. She can score in a variety of different ways, which will give Hooten the go-to-player he needs. Burklow may be the OVERSET FOLLOWS:team’s most physical player and rebounded well for the Lady Bulldogs a year ago.
Best outside players: Ezell is the team’s top perimeter player, but Houston may be the team’s best shooter. She was the team’s point guard a year ago but has the ability to score.
How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year?: Quitman fell one victory shy of reaching the state tournament a year ago but will have a very good chance of making a return to the postseason if the team plays to their ability, according to Hooten. “That’s the thing that we’ve got to be able to do, night in and night out,” he said. “We’ve got to play the way that we’re capable of playing. If we do that, good things can happen.”
Team strengths: Hooten likes the way his team is playing defense, which will carry them a long way if their offense isn’t clicking. “We’re definitely going to be able to play defense, that’s for sure,” he said. “We may struggle some in some other spots, but we’re going to be able to play defense in every game.”
Team weaknesses: It may take a while for the Lady Bulldogs to get completely comfortable with Hooten’s system, which may cause them to have a few bumps and bruises along the way. “The ability to run the offense is hurting us at the moment,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot to learn, but the effort is there, and they’re working hard.”
Games to watch: The Hooten era officially begins on Nov. 11 against White County Central. Any glaring aspects that the team needs to fine tune will show, which is important for a team looking to return to the top of the conference.
Toughest opponent: Conway St. Joseph is the odds-on favorite to win the conference, according to Hooten, but the other teams are catching up. “There’s really not a huge gap between teams this year,” he said. “St. Joseph is always pretty strong, but I think everyone else is pretty good, too. There’s more parity now.”
College prospects: Ezell is starting to get attention from a number of schools, and that should continue throughout the season.
In a nutshell: Hooten wants the Lady Bulldogs to simply work hard each and every night. Quitman last won a conference title in 2011, but he feels that the hard work the team has put in will pay off in the end. “Things have gone good,” he said. “We’ve got some things that we’ve got to get better at, but we’re putting in a lot of hard work to get better. That’s the good thing about it. If we can play hard every game, I think we can be a pretty good team.”