2016-17 basketball preview: New Covenant Girls

By Nolan Epstein (For OzarkSportsZone.com)

Thanks to a roster full of returning players and an abundance of talent, the New Covenant Lady Warriors are ready for a breakout year – one that they hope includes an elusive district championship.

Last season was a journey in rebuilding on the fly. After losing the program’s all-time scoring leader Casy Askins and all-time leading 3-point shooter Emma Petree, NCA was left with a lot of question marks as the 2015-16 season approached.

With all that they were missing, the Lady Warriors managed to post a 10-17 overall record a year ago and won a game in their district tournament before falling to Hurley by a final of 73-52.

“We lacked experience as most of the offense ran through [Askins and Petree],” NCA head coach David Anderlik said. “We put in more of a team-centric system that took some major adjusting and we improved throughout the year.”

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Luckily for Anderlik, now in his second year, several of his younger players stepped up in a big way – signifying the notion that New Covenant’s rise back to prominence was right around the corner.

The offense will likely revolve around sophomore sensation Maggie Phipps, a guard who averaged 16.9 PPG and 5.1 APG, both team-highs, as a freshman while collecting first team all-conference honors.

“She is a tenacious defender who led our team in steals and was our energy leader on the floor,” Anderlik said of Phipps. “She is a well-balanced player that can shoot and attack the basket.”

Junior guard Jacey Lamb came onto the scene last season and improved greatly as the year progressed. Averaging 9.1 PPG, Lamb, who had a breakout performance in the first-round district game against Exeter in which she scored a season-high 27 points, will look to create a dangerous offensive tandem with Phipps.

“Lamb came into her sophomore season with limited experience and was thrust into a starting role,” said Anderlik. “She is a solid defender and an improving scorer, one that we will count on to continue to improve.”

A notable newcomer to the squad is freshman guard Alicia Batten. Batten scored 18 PPG in her eighth-grade campaign. The youngster will be thrown into the proverbial fire and be tabbed as the team’s point guard.

“[Batten] will improve in running our offense and will be a great fit mixing in with our guards,” Anderlik said. “She pushes the ball well up the floor in transition and is improving as a shooter. She is also a very good defender and allows us to expand our defensive philosophy to be more aggressive.”

Team leadership duties will once again be handed to senior forward and team captain Emerson Russell (8.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG), who is working to get back to form for the season after suffering a broken foot while playing volleyball this fall.

As the start of the season creeps closer, more and more confidence builds for a New Covenant team that is still waiting for its first-ever district title. If everyone on the roster stays healthy, there’s no reason to believe that the Lady Warriors don’t have a strong chance to make history.

“It should be a fun season filled with improvements and successes,” Anderlik added. “We have never won a district championship and this year is as good as any to begin that trend.”

NCA competes in the Fair Play Tournament on Nov. 21 to begin the season.

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