The Lady Lions open up the 2012-13 campaign tonight at 6 p.m. against Villa Rica at home. They will do so the same way they ended last year’s season — without Sherae Bonner. The 6-foot-1 junior forward ended last season on the bench with a broken finger and will begin this year with a broken wrist.
“We had a really good summer. Just like everything else we’ve got going, there’s a good combination of young and old — with a lot of young. Right now, we’ll be starting out a little bit short-handed. Sherae has a broken wrist. Seems like I ended last year and start this year the same way. We will have lost her for maybe as many as four games total,” Central coach Jimmy LeBlanc said. “She’s able to practice every day, she just has a cast on it and is unable to play.”
The broken wrist is on Bonner’s non-shooting hand and the Central coach hopes that that will improve her shot from breaking some bad habits, as well as helping the team learn to play without one of its go-to players.
Some of the players that had to step up last year were freshmen, and now as sophomores have the playing experience to be successful this year.
“They just don’t play like sophomores. Hayley [Sims] and Wesli [Simmons], in particular, probably got more time out of that group. And Brianna [Cousins], right now with Sherae out, Brianna’s going to have to carry the load and we’ve got a freshman backing her up. It’s extremely important they got that playing time last year,” LeBlanc said. “They look like they’ve played more than one year. They’re playing more maturely than a typical sophomore is going to play.”
Sydney LeBlanc is the only senior on the roster after graduating a strong class from a year ago.
“Senior, we’ve got Sydney LeBlanc, then Sherae is a junior and then everybody else is freshmen and sophomores. Wesli Simmons, Hayley Sims are two of those and we’re looking for Jasmine Thrash to step up and have a good year, too,” Jimmy LeBlanc said. “Elizabeth Minick has stepped up, as well. Then we have a good bunch of freshmen that will see minutes.”
With just one senior and one junior, the leadership is going to have to come from some underclassmen this season, as well.
“I think everyone looks to Sherae, so that’s some place she’s going to have to grow. I think a lot of people that have it don’t want to be that leader, and that’s just going to be a part of her development right now. I think Sydney in a lot of ways, as a senior, provides a lot of cohesiveness. I also think Hayley and Wesli, the ability to be able to lead through their experience. Being young leaders, they’ll make mistakes in their leadership. But it will be part of their growth process,” Jimmy LeBlanc said.
The Lady Lions will be dealing with a new region this year, as they stayed in Class AAA. Playing in Region 4-AAA will keep Haralson County, but also adds plenty of unknowns for the new year.
Leaving are traditional powers in LaGrange, Carrollton and Troup, bringing in a whole new set of unknown opponents this season.
“Of course, Haralson County, we do know them and they know us. I haven’t had an opportunity to see Rockmart yet. Saw Callaway this summer and Chapel Hill, I think, played real well against Villa Rica the other night and will be tough. Then the three schools on the Atlanta side — [Douglass, Jackson and Coretta Scott King] — we don’t know a lot about them yet, but we’re going to have some opportunities in the next week or two to go out and see them play,” Jimmy LeBlanc said.
Even after a long run in state softball, the Central coach is ready to get after it on the basketball side, with some breaks here and there.
“The good thing with our schedule, we played a jamboree last week, play [tonight], but then we’ll go two weeks without a game. That will help us put together our routine and finish the fall sports, get the banquets out of the way and those types of things. We’ll get some more practice under our belts, get healed up,” Jimmy LeBlanc said. “You just keep plugging away and take advantage of some time you have to catch your breath.”