Despite being the defending south state champions, Columbia Academy has struggled through its first 15 games. With four starters graduating and Macey Jones transferring, head coach Dale Watts said the Lady Cougars (4-11) are essentially rebuilding on the fly.
“Kylan Reagan is the only one with experience who is back so I’m playing with freshmen, sophomores and a junior,” he said. “The girls are working hard, but we’re just way behind a lot of our competition, and the schedule has been pretty rough.”
Watts added he hopes the schedule, which has been loaded with 4A and 5A schools, will help get the young squad better prepared when it’s playing 3A competition in its own district.
Junior Olivia Adams got limited playing time last season but has had to step up and fill a much bigger role. Presley Dease, a sophomore, has taken over point guard duties, which Watts said is a big responsibility because she has to set the tempo and be the quarterback of the offense. Chandler Havard, another sophomore, has become the go-to threat for CA on the perimeter, and Watts said the Lady Cougars have come to really depend on her 3-point shooting. Freshmen Lauren McDaniel, Payton McCain and Maggie Wilks are coming off of playing in junior high and have had to jump straight into the varsity lineup. Wilks is leading the team with 6.8 points per game, while McDaniel is averaging 5.6 points and five rebounds and Dease 5.4 points and five boards.
The biggest area CA needs to improve on is being able to pass and catch, according to Watts. He said while it seems like a simple aspect, it can be a significant challenge in the half court.
The Lady Cougars are coming off a 40-34 win Tuesday over Lamar Christian on the heels of back-to-back losses to Oak Forest Academy on Dec. 5 and Centreville Academy Saturday. CA played host to Amite School Center Friday night, and the Lady Cougars will remain home Saturday as they host Wayne Academy.