Central girls basketball won just four games last year, but things are trending in the right direction this season thanks to the return of the Lady Bulldogs’ three leading scorers in Dasia Pence, Sakirah Jones and Heather Cornman.
Pence is the biggest piece returning after she averaged 14.6 points 4.4 rebounds 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game as a junior. Her point, assist and steal total led the team.
“Dasia is a very special talent on the court and an even more incredible person off the court. I have seen her grow in the past two years and she is only gaining more and more confidence. She does score the ball for us, but she is such an unselfish player that she loves to see her teammates succeed, which is something that every coach loves,” Central head coach Caitlyn Russell said. “She has started on the varsity team her freshman and sophomore years which made her have to step into a leadership position that not all players could handle. Dasia has handled that pressure and leadership extremely well and it has shown on the court with her statistics. This season she is going to continue to be looked upon to be a leader, a scorer, and a facilitator for our team. She has some talented players around her that take away a little of the pressure for her, but that is only going to make her a better scorer and competitor.”
Pence’s classmate Jones was the team’s second-leading scorer at 8.8 points per game as a sophomore after only playing in three varsity games as a freshman. Her 5.1 rebounds per game led the Lady Bulldogs last year.
“She (Jones) was our starting post player and has continued to improve her scoring and rebounding abilities over the offseason. Last year we really looked to her for scoring because of her size advantage and this year we will continue to do the same,” Russell said. “Sakirah also has great court vision. Many teams like to double team her and she finds her open teammates very well. This season we will definitely utilize her scoring ability in the post as well as count on her to rebound the ball extremely well.”
Cornman is a senior leader that is in her fourth season of varsity basketball under Russell. Her contributions go well beyond the 4.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game that showed up the box score.
“Heather Cornman is one of our players that is often overlooked due to her lack of scoring, however, she is one of my hardest workers who contributes those statistics you don’t usually look at,” Russell said. “Although she may not score many points or get a lot of rebounds, her ability to communicate and work hard are her best attributes to this team. She is a true leader on the court and we depend on her for her hustle plays, her voice that unifies the team, and her passion for the game. I know I will always get 110% from Heather and her last season is going to be one she will never forget.”
Central has a large freshman class that will step onto the court immediately led by Cia Taylor, Tekaria Finley, Kiley Cantin and Makaiya Brooks. Taylor is an explosive guard who can handle the ball well according to Russell. She will take some of the ball-handling load off of Pence’s plate. Finley will contribute strong defense and shooting. Cantin will slide into the post and will be a factor on the glass on both ends of the floor. Brooks will be a strong all-around player once she gets used to the speed of the high school game according to Russell.
The mix of youth and experience has Russell excited for what this season can bring for the Lady Bulldogs.
“This season we have a young group of girls, mixed with some experienced upperclassmen. I expect these girls to work extremely hard because they know what to expect from me, and they are hungry to be successful. I am very excited to see these girls work hard for their goals and come together as a team to do great things,” Russell said.
Central opens the season on Nov. 20 at home against Branson.