Competition is good, but when that competition exhibits its dominance over a substantial period, it can grow tiresome.
Since Homestead and Carroll entered the Summit Athletic Conference six years ago, the duo have owned the SAC on the girls’ side – with the Spartans capturing five-consecutive league crowns and the Chargers breaking that streak last year with a title of its own.
In the wake of this dominance is the old guard of the SAC, including South Side, which is hoping to make a dent in the Homestead/Carroll run.
The Archers went 12-6 a year ago and fell to, you guessed it, Homestead in sectional play, the third-consecutive season in which the Spartans have bounced South Side. With a key duo returning, Coach Juanita Goodwell is hoping this year sees a different result, both in conference and in the playoffs.
Senior guard Olivia Smith is back, a centerpiece not just of the Archers but one of the best all-around players in the entire area. She averaged 20.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season and is expected to fill a multitude of roles for this year’s squad.
Also back is sophomore Annika Davis after a stellar freshman campaign that saw her average 11.9 points and 2.4 rebounds a contest.
Supplementing that duo are two players that have filled limited roles in years past but must step up big in 2021-22 – senior Nevaeh Pearson and junior Justice Billingsley. Both averaged around 1-2 points per game but will need to find some offense to replace what was lost.
The two biggest departures for South were center Lamyia Woodson (10.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and guard Jas Combs (7.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg). Woodson gave the Archers a pure post presence that was able to command attention in the lane and clean up misses, as well as be a big presence on the defensive end. Combs held down a starting role for four years with South. Her knowledge of the offense, raw skill and intense effort was infectious and will be missed. Also gone are a pair of guards – Cierra Calloway and Cassidy Connelley – who were veterans capable of making some plays.
“We will be a competitive group that will have to use speed, athletics and experience to find success,” Goodwell said. “Our challenges will be in size, but with effort, we can compete and work to control tempo.”
That’s where South has succeeded so much under Goodwell’s tutelage. The Archers are not afraid to push tempo and attack, attack, attack, forcing teams to play catch-up both on the floor and on the scoreboard. That strategy can help minimize the fact that once against South will be short of bodies.
Once again, the Archers are facing a season in which they only have a varsity squad, with not enough girls out for the team to put JV and freshman teams on the court. This is puzzling considering South’s proven long-term success in girls’ basketball, but an issue that is plaguing other programs through the area. Even Homestead is in a position this season that sees it without a freshman team.
So ready or not, some freshmen will be thrust into the varsity rotation for the Archers. A pair of forward types in JaMaya Green and La’Lonie Waller-Thomas could give the Archers a post presence that it will be missing with Woodson gone. Meanwhile, freshman Kamoni Grayson has exceptional potential on the perimeter, while senior Terra Easley is another player to watch who could contribute in the post.
Per usual, the schedule is difficult, with out-of-conference matchups including Northridge, Heritage Christian and Carmel, plus a tournament at Vincennes Lincoln that replaces the now-defunct SAC Holiday Tournament.
“This will be a challenging schedule, but it will make us stronger to compete come post-season,” Goodwell said.
With Homestead once again lurking in Sectional 6, the Archers will likely have another shot at a team that been a blockade of sorts to success over the past three seasons.
Just three victories shy of 200 career wins, Coach Goodwell knows how to develop and coach up players at the high school level. What she has done at South Side should not be overlooked, as it comes with its own unique set of challenges not experiences at some of the other successful programs in northeast Indiana.
Olivia Smith and Annika Davis are two of the best players around regardless of class, which will give South Side a boost and make it a favorite against the majority of its opponents.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Depth is once again a concern. Not only does Coach Goodwell lack bodies, she lacks a significant amount of experience outside of the top duo. Billingsley and Pearson in particular will need to up their contributions quickly stepping in for the losses due to graduation.
The lack of size also has South a bit lower in the rankings. Who replaces Woodson in the post? Can anyone?
Jan. 7 vs. Homestead
South Side has dropped eight straight games to Homestead, the last win coming in sectional play in 2018, the last year that the Archers were sectional champions.
Coming out of the Christmas holiday, both teams will want to solidify their chances at an SAC championship. What is good about when these two teams play is that the Archers should have some natural depth built up through the first two months of the season. Will that be enough to knock off the Spartans?
Olivia Smith, senior
This is not a one-woman team, but Smith is so versatile that she can help South Side win game in an innumerable amount of ways.
She doesn’t always need to be the top scorer, but she can help this team by finding her teammates in positions to succeed with passes, as well as being a leader in the huddle.
Teams often take on the personality of their best player. Smith’s impact on this team will go a long way towards how much success the Archers have this year.
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