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Posted: November 17, 2011 6:42 p.m.

Alcovy girls return veteran squad with eyes on the big prize

There’s a certain sense of excitement surrounding Alcovy’s girls’ basketball program these days. Winning 25 games and going undefeated in subregion play as they did last year will to do that. But the excitement is only compounded by the fact that the Lady Tigers are poised to be even better this year.

Alcovy returns all but one starter from last year’s subregion championship team but that one loss is a significant one. Lisa Kossally, the Lady Tigers' defensive spark plug the past four years, graduated as the school’s all-time leader in steals. It also could prove to be an opportunity.

Megan Tucker will slide over to the point guard position and brings her array of offensive skills to the position. While she doesn’t possess Kosally’s quickness, she makes up for it in court vision and basketball IQ. 

 “Losing Lisa we do lose a lot of quickness at the point guard position but I think we gain a lot more offensive prowess,” Alcovy coach Kidada Holtzclaw said. “We will be able to score see the floor from that position. I’m just excited about what we can bring out there offensively.”

Speaking of offense, Alcovy didn’t lack much last year. The Lady Tigers finished with three double-digit scorers in Tucker, Kate Palo and Ashley Williams. They scored 57 points per game — 10 more than the next closest team,   and 22 of their 25 wins were by double digits. They did that all while giving up a subregion low 42 points per game. 

As well as those numbers were, it’s on defense where Holtzclaw thinks they can improve.

“We can score. I’m not worried about that,” she said. “Our main thing right now is working on our defense. We aren’t as quick as we were on the perimeter so we have to play team defense. We talk about how defense has to be number one. We know we can score. But we have to play team defense if we want to be able to stop teams on the perimeter. ”

Alcovy has a few new faces that Holtzclaw will look to for support inside primarily. Kacie Palo will play alongside her sister in an expanded role and is just as deadly from outside. But Holtzclaw is perhaps most excited about the development of Ashley Williams.

 “The major different we have coming back is Ashley. She’s bigger, better and stronger and is already showing how much she has improved from just last year,” Holtzclaw said. “If we can keep her head in the game when teams are coming after her, she is going to be a special player.”

Williams came out of nowhere last year to become one of the region’s most dominant post players. She nearly averaged a double-double in rebounds and points in her first full season as a sophomore. Williams gives the Lady Tigers a legitimate inside presence. She’s the best rebounder on the floor every night and her raw athleticism has drawn the attention of many college coaches and it’s certainly caught the eyes of coaches.

“She is still kind of raw but I think she has come into her own,” Holtzclaw said. “She has recognized that she is a force to be reckoned with down in the post. We have to make sure we keep her head in the game. There will be a lot of people fouling her and sending her to the free throw line. A lot of people will be targeting her.”

The Lady Tigers won’t have to deal with current University of Connecticut guard Brianna Banks who led Fayette County to a region and state championship. That doesn’t mean Fayette County won’t be on the radar as one of the teams that stands in the way of Alcovy’s goal to win the region title.

“Fayette is always competitive,” Holtzclaw said. “We know a lot of these teams are going to be better. Dutchtown is always good and we expect teams like Woodland to give us a run. We are going to get a tough game every time out.”

Alcovy is limitless with what it can do on offense. With Tucker’s ability to score in the open floor and create her own shots and Kate Palo’s all-around game, the Lady Tigers can score on the perimeter and in the paint. Add Kacie Palo’s sharp shooting as another zone-busting option and Alcovy can spread teams out. When that happens, both Kate Palo and Tucker are excellent passers and they’ll find Williams. Combine all of that with Williams’ offensive rebounding ability and it adds up to some lofty expectations both internally and externally.

“We don’t want to put any pressure on the kids but I think they are already starting to feel some with all the talk from their classmates and people here in the community,” Holtzclaw said. “They have to understand that we have to stay hungry. When we step out there, we have to take it game by game and let our play dictate the outcome.”

The Lady Tigers had a memorable year in 2010-11. They went 14-0 in subregion play, made it to the region championship game and won the school’s first basketball playoff game. It’s not hard to see why the aspirations of a state championship run are there.

“I’m very excited about this season,” Holtzclaw said. “I’m looking forward to being able to build off the success we had last year. We talk about staying hungry and humble. We are going to be focused on what’s ahead of us. Right now its beat Eastside. We’ll take our steps as they come.”

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