Russellville Lady Cyclones

Published October 27, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
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Conference: 7A/6A Central

Coach: Steve Wiedower, fifth year, 57-57; overall 286-168

Assistant coach: Christina Wilbers

2012-13 record: 3-24 overall and 0-14 conference. Lost to Benton in the first round of the Class 6A State Tournament, 43-31.

Returning starters: Alyssa Owens, 5-6 sophomore, 12 points per game; Kenzie Wiedower, 5-8 senior, 7 ppg; and Shelby Gray, 5-3 senior, 3 ppg.

Best inside players: Shameka Ealy, 6-0 sophomore; Madison McKinley, 5-11 sophomore, and Jocelyn Brown, 5-8 junior.

Best outside players: Owens, Wiedower and Gray, as well as Addy Hipps, a 5-9 junior, and Nicole Phillips, a 5-5 junior.

How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year? Last year, as the defending Class 6A state runner-up, Russellville struggled with no returning starters. The Lady Cyclones took their lumps. Wiedower knew from the beginning the season would be a rebuilding project, having lost six seniors off a team that finished one game short of the school’s first state title since 1978, and that had the best finish for a Russellville girls team since 1998. Look for this season to be better. “We are hoping to exceed our finish from last season by winning some conference games and preparing ourselves for the [Class] 6A state tourney,” Wiedower said. A year of experience can only help.

Team strengths: “We hope to have a stronger defensive team this year and more balanced scoring from the inside and outside,” Wiedower said.

Team weaknesses: Despite a year of maturity, the coach said inexperience would be the major weakness this season, at least to start the season.

Games to watch: The 7A/6A-Central is one of the toughest leagues in any classification in the state, with four teams reaching the state finals in both classifications (Fort Smith Northside beat Fort Smith Southside for the Class 7A championship; Little Rock Hall knocked off Little Rock Parkview in Class 6A). Wiedower said all conference games would be very tough.

Toughest opponent: Northside, the defending Class 7A state champion, and Parkview, defending Class 6A state runner-up.

College prospects: Wiedower said both Owens and Ealy had drawn some interest from college programs over the summer. “Both are sophomores with a lot of potential,” he said.

In a nutshell: “We are excited about the upcoming season and hoping to improve from a year ago,” Wiedower said. “We will be very young and should improve as the season progresses.”

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