The goal for this year’s South Side girls basketball is simple.
Well, that may be too succinct. But it does go along with what Archers coach Juanita Goodwell wants to see from her team this season.
Last year, South Side displayed stretches of greatness in its 16-8 campaign, but it also showcased the inability to put together a full four quarters of basketball, particularly in three losses to Homestead.
That aspect of the game was priority No. 1 over the summer.
“We didn’t compete in the second half of all three games against Homestead (last year),” said Goodwell. “We had moments where we were not mature enough or confident enough to overcome adversity.”
Goodwell believes that will change this season. The team lost just one of its top five scorers from last year, and with that the core of the leadership group is back.
Senior Jaci Jones (12.7 points per game, 2.8 assists per game) returns for what feels like her seventh prep season. The four-year starter began her career primarily as a point guard, but has been able to play some off guard with sophomore Olivia Smith in the fold last season.
“Jaci has become more comfortable in a shooter’s role and giving some control over to Olivia,” Goodwell said. “This is her last stand so to speak, and we want it to be her best.”
Smith has developed greater decision-making ability in the offseason, cementing herself at the one-guard spot. She will have plenty of talent around her to feed the ball to.
Alaya Chapman (10.0 ppg, 5.2 rebounds per game, Top 50 Girls Hoops #11) will be key in the post for South, with Goodwell feeling that the senior will be more disciplined and”in control” in crucial times in games.
Chapman will have junior Lamyia Woodson (6.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, Top 50 Girls Hoops #21) as another post to help out around the basket.
The fifth starting spot for the Archers is currently up for grabs, but will be locked down soon. Contenders include junior Cassidy Connelley, who brings energy and tenacity on the defensive end and could be a spark in that department for the Archers.
Junior Jas Combs will also be in the mix, as well as sophomore Tara Easley, who led the junior varsity team in scoring last year as a ninth grader.
South Side will also have a few freshmen who could develop into having significant bench roles if their growth rate continues.
Always looking to play a tough schedule, Goodwell went above and beyond this year, picking up Fishers in a last-minute deal as well as agreeing to a trip to a tournament in Valparaiso late in December.
“We were more aggressive in our scheduling for sure,” Goodwell said.
The goal? To challenge the girls in every possible way so they are ready for what the postseason holds. That challenge includes Homestead, which still resides in Class 4A Sectional 6.
South Side brings plenty of production back from a 16-win team of a year ago. The youth that the Archers threw into the fire last season, youth that looked overmatched at times against big-time opponents, are now a year older and ready to face the challenges of a brutal schedule.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
After beating Homestead in sectional play in 2018, South Side fell three times to its SAC nemesis a year ago. Until the Archers show that they can indeed handle the Spartans again, it is difficult to rank them No. 1.
JAN. 10 VS. HOMESTEAD
In the first girls-boys SAC doubleheader night of 2020, the Archers will host Homestead in a 6 p.m. tip that could decide the conference winner. Might these two have already shortly prior in the SAC Holiday Tournament? If so, this one will have even more intrigue.
JACI JONES, SENIOR
Jones tossed up 177 three-point attempts last season, easily the most on the team. She hit 37 percent of those, which is respectable. But with the inside depth that South has, defenses will look to collapse in the post when the ball goes in there. If Jones can up that three-point percentage above 40 percent, that will further help open up opportunities for Chapman and Woodson.