By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — At 4-1 the Southmoore girls basketball team is off to an impressive start. Only six other teams in class 6A have as many victories as they do to start the season.
However, the SaberCats are not satisfied with what they have done. After losing to No. 1 Northeast Academy (2A) in the semifinals of the Harrah tournament Friday, the teams feels it let one get away.
“I definitely think we are capable of much more,” senior Kayla Tucker said. “We should be 5-0 right now. We have a lot of expectations for this team and I know we can do a lot of great things.”
The SaberCats have come a long way to get to this point. There was a time that just getting to four victories seemed like a minor miracle.
In Tucker’s freshman season, she and her Southmoore teammates won a total of five games during that 2009-10 season. It didn’t get much better as a sophomore when the SaberCats won another five games.
There was not much to be excited about winning 10 games in two seasons. However, the tide started to turn for the Cats last season when they reached 11 wins and were one game under .500.
But it was the arrival of coach Britney Kannady-Sayes in the offseason that has seemed to turn the entire program around. Kannady-Sayes has brought with her an emphasis on the basics of the game that has enabled Southmoore to knock off several high-caliber squads.
“I’d have to say we’ve played together and unselfish,” Kannady-Sayes said. “And probably our defense and how hard we go to rebound the basketball. Coming in I didn’t think it would be the strength of the team, but I expected it to be the strength of the team. As a coach, it’s defense first. It doesn’t matter how good or quick or athletic you are. I just feel like every team needs to crash the boards. And the defensive battle, rebounding battle and the transition battle are all things that end up winning the ball games.”
The Cats opened the season with a 21 point win over Norman. But they really cemented that they are for real by taking down No. 2 Midwest City 46-36 and No. 6 Harrah 50-48.
“Last week was basically a roller coaster ride for us, both mentally and physically,” Kannady-Sayes said. “We came out 3-1 and lost a ball game that I think if we were a little fresh, we would have had a better chance to win. But Northeast is a great team, so I have to take a couple of great wins. Midwest City was a great win. Won a close game versus Choctaw and beat Harrah at Harrah. So we beat three quality trams and took one hit.”
Southmoore’s success revolves around a talented and athletic front court comprised of sophomores Serithia Hawkins and Kyeria Hannah and senior Bailey Olsen.
“Obviously they put a lot of points on the board for us, which is what everyone looks at,” Kannady-Sayes said. “But they beat a lot of teams down floor, they block a lot of shots and they are the reason why we are outrebounded teams. They help us in every aspect of the ball game.”
However, Tucker has become the team’s focal point. The shooting guard has always been a potent scorer, but now she is adding other aspects to her game.
“I have definitely improved a lot in my ball handling and my leadership,” Tucker said. “I’ve tried to increase my role as a leader on the team, especially being a senior. The whole team has come together a lot more. We’ve all mature a lot more. So its easier to lead a team that wants to be helped and led.”
Tucker, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Alabama State, wants to show that the team’s start isn’t a fluke when it traveled to cross-town rival Westmoore (2-2) Dec. 11. It was the biggest game on the schedule for Tucker, who has saved some of her best outings for the Jaguars.
“It’s definitely going to be a very emotional game,” Tucker said before the game. “I’m ready to play against them. It’s going to be one of my last Southwest Showdowns. But I expect us to pull out a win and get a victory over our rivals.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com