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PREP HOOPS: Lady Cougars working for new season
Piedmont Hoops
The Piedmont Academy varsity girls’ basketball team is putting together a strong summer as it begins preparation for the 2021-22 season. The Lady Cougars are looking to continue their success after graduating a senior class that produced 67 wins, a pair of region titles, two Elite Eight appearances and the first Final Four appearance in program history. - Special to The Covington News

MONTICELLO, Ga. — After a memorable and history-making 2020-2021 season, the Piedmont Academy Lady Cougars basketball team is already looking ahead to its next campaign.

The Piedmont varsity girls have stayed busy since the end of the school year and coach Michael Wilson said the team worked hard throughout the month of June.

“We’ve had a great summer,” the coach said. “I was really pleased with the consistent turnout and the work the girls put in for us.”

Players reported for practice each morning at 7:15 and had a determined attitude to get better.

 “Our goal as a coaching staff was to make the summer tougher than in years past so we could get better,” Wilson said. “We made it a point to celebrate what we have accomplished but also to tell them that if they felt comfortable this summer they weren’t getting better.”

The Lady Cougars lost three seniors from last year’s squad. That trio won’t be easily replaced, as the senior class made a significant contribution to 67 wins, two region championships, one region runner-up finish, two Elite Eight appearances and the school’s first Final Four appearance in a four-year span.

“Those are big shoes to fill but we plan on doing so as they did when it was their time to step up,” Wilson said. “One thing I’ve tried to teach each team I’ve had is that those before us afforded you the opportunity to go where prior teams didn’t go — this group is no different. Just because the bar has been raised, it does not mean we are satisfied.”

The Lady Cougars played 11 games this summer, earning nine wins. The competition was strong and should help prepare Piedmont for its opponents on the court in 2021-22.

Wilson’s team defeated rival Gatewood and George Walton Academy early in the summer.

“Gatewood has improved greatly from last season and even playing them in the summer brings out the best effort in both teams,” Wilson said. “George Walton was a good win because they are much bigger than us and are a well-coached team. They are young and improving and I expect our game with them this winter will be a lot more difficult. We also beat Washington-Wilkes and Greene County in a round-robin scrimmage and had a really good controlled scrimmage against Tattnall Square Academy.”

Piedmont ventured to a team camp at Troy University in Alabama and compiled a 4-2 record. The only losses were to Montgomery Academy, a state runner-up last season, and to Fort Walton Beach High School of Florida, a state semifinalist last year.

The losses were by eight and 10 points, respectively, but Wilson noted if they had been a regular season games with clock stoppages, fouls and a full allotment of time, the outcomes could have been different.

“I was extremely pleased with the improvement that Teagan Satterfield, Kylee Keck and Abby Arnold showed at the guard position,” Wilson said. “They are going to be asked to step up this season and fill some voids. We are going to need them to play at a high level and they showed this summer they are capable of that.”

Bailey Mobley, Haiden Crews and Dakota Floyd will also be counted on in the post this winter.

“They definitely gained confidence and at different points in the summer made big statements in games with their scoring and defense,” Wilson said. “All of them still need to work on consistency and their individual skill development between now and November but they are on the right track and I think they will help to fill in what we lost to graduation. 

“Of all the girls on the team, Bailey probably had the best summer in terms of improvement in the post position. I really feel she is going to help us this season. She is going to be a huge part of our success with her rebounding and willingness to screen for teammates and not demand a certain amount of shots each game.”

Maddie Waddleton and Hannah Tyler also impressed their coaches with quality summers.

“Even though they are returning and were very important to us, they are going to need to be leaders for us this season and to be consistent in each and every game,” Wilson said. “Their role for the team is going to expand and it is not going to be easy. They are going to feel more pressure because of what we need from them and part of us making practice so much more difficult was to help them reach the level we need.” 

Despite the pressure on them, Waddleton and Tyler handled it well.

“They responded well,” their coach said. “There were some hiccups but it’s all part of the process. With each bump in the road, they came out of it better players and teammates and that’s what we need. They have sat in the shadows for five years or so but I knew when the time came, they would be able to fill their roles. I trust both of them to continue on what others have started and lead this team this season.”

Rising freshman Marissa Holder also had a solid summer of work. She attended the Troy Elite Camp where there were more than 100 high school basketball players and she finished in the top five in the 1-on-1 competition.

She also won the “Hot Shot” competition, which was a 30-second timed shooting contest. She went through six rounds and emerged as the winner of the event.

“That’s not easy for a rising ninth grader to do that at a camp with Division I talent,” Wilson said. “She was impressive and it was good for her confidence. She’s also going to face an increase in her role. Last year she wasn’t always our primary ball handler. And while I hope Teagan and Abby are able to share the load this season, we will rely on Marissa to handle the basketball more. 

“She’s a special talent but what is going to separate her from others is her ability for unselfish play.”

Mallory Kelly and Raleigh Loftin had strong summers and are understanding their roles. Hailey McGinnis continues to improve for the team as well. 

“Our goals are simple,” Wilson said. “We want to win our home games and earn a third straight region title. We feel if we do that, we have a chance of being there at the end of the season. We haven’t forgotten how last season ended and we don’t want that to happen again.”