By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
CENTRE – Cherokee County High School senior guard/forward Ella Garmany said she’s tried to block out last year’s girls sub-regional game against Handley.
In that game, the Lady Warriors built a 12-point halftime lead, but Handley rallied in the second half for a 71-67 victory to end Cherokee County’s season at 19-8.
A lot has changed since that game. The Lady Warriors lost several key seniors. They’ve also gained a new head coach in Richard Barton.
Barton also remembers that sub-regional game against Handley, albeit in a different capacity. He was coaching the Centre Middle School Lady Warriors.
“We got out-rebounded, and the physicality of the game” were reasons the Lady Warriors lost, Barton said. “Those are a couple of the things we’re pushing and trying to get better at. I think the girls will tell you they don’t have the biggest bodies, but we do have some bigger frames this year. A lot of that is going to be young girls who it may take some time to bring along. Rebounding is definitely an emphasis, along with communication, getting them to talk. They’re all big talkers until we get out there.”
In an effort to help with the communication part, Barton recently took the Lady Warriors to Tuscaloosa to watch the Alabama women’s team practice.
“I wanted them to see the way a practice is supposed to be run, the focus and the things that they’re doing at that level that can help us, how they communicate with one another, how they compete, how everything is about competition,” he said. “We’ve tried to take some of those things we saw there and bring those back and implement that into our game and do our best to be the best we can this year.”
“I think he holds us accountable for what we do in practice,” Garmany said. “He pushes us to be the best we can be.”
Last season, Garmany was the Lady Warriors’ go-to in the post. While she’ll still see some time inside, Barton wants to utilize her abilities more as a shooter.
“She is probably our best shooter on the team,” Barton said. “We want to get her open looks. She hasn’t had the opportunity to do that because of the lack of size and the way we’ve played in the past, but she’s a fantastic shooter.”
That’s where the Lady Warriors’ bigger frames come in. Junior center Grayson Tucker, junior forward Hannah Moseley, and freshman center Deannia Starr are all listed at 5-foot-10 on the roster. Other Lady Warrior forwards – many of them freshmen – include Garmany’s sister, Raegan, Navaeh Gaidurgis, Macy Lea and Ava Martin.
The other Lady Warrior guards include juniors Mary Hayes Johnson, Audrey Haygood, Raechel Russell, sophomores Vivian Connell and Libby Curry, and freshmen Ellisan Givens, Ella Bryant, Marie Crane and Isabella Patterson.
Barton coached many of the younger Lady Warriors when they were in middle school.
“It’s really a hard-working group of girls. That’s what you want,” Barton said. “There’s never any backtalk or lip or anything like that. They have a lot of respect for our whole coaching staff. When you ask them to do something, they’re going to do it. They respond well to the coaching. We’re getting better. They’re learning from me and I’m learning from them. We’re looking to grow as a team.”
Part of that growth happened on Saturday in the Lady Warriors’ season-opener at the Champions Thanksgiving Classic in Alexandria. The Lady Warriors built a 36-25 lead against Ohatchee before the Lady Indians rallied, but they held on for a 44-42 victory.
Gaidurgis led the Lady Warriors with 13 points. Johnson added 10 points. Raegan Garmany and Tucker both rang for eight points. Haygood finished with five points.
The Lady Warriors compete in Class 4A, Area 10 along with Cleburne County, Jacksonville and White Plains. They’ll also face an early-season test against Handley again in the Cherokee Invitational on Dec. 16.
“I’m excited about that,” Barton said. “I think that being an early game for us, being the team that put us out, I want to see how we respond to a team like that.”