The South Pontotoc Lady Cougars took their initial steps toward building for the 2019-20 campaign with their summer schedule during the month of June. Coach Bill Russell announced his retirement immediately after the season, eventually agreeing to return to the sidelines on a part-time basis.
With the team not having had any practice during the final part of the school year and having to replace a highly productive senior class that was key to a breakthrough 28-5 season, it was good to get some work in and put some game situations under the belts of inexperienced players.
"The summer was big, but it showed our inconsistency," coach Russell said. "We have some kids who have varsity experience but are going to be taking on different roles than what they played this past year. I think that contributed to it. I could tell they hadn't done a lot of basketball stuff since February. One of the things that we really wanted to get done this summer was to kind of get back in the basketball groove and play a little bit. It's kind of like starting over for us.
"What summer is for is to let you know what you need to work on once school starts and you start preparing for the upcoming season."
The Lady Cougars return talented sophomore guard Rebekah Pilcher. Seniors Anna Catherine Roye and Maisy Canerdy split time starting in the post, and Sydney Brazil played extensively off the bench. Senior Leah Pennington played a good deal of minutes as well, but she was lost to an ACL this summer.
"Rebekah's role is going to be the same, but the others' roles have changed drastically from last year," Russell said. "We are going to have to have some post play from Maisy and Anna Catherine both, and Sydney is going to have to shoot the ball well for us."
Junior Brianna Jamison and sophomores Laila Houpt and Caroline Cook are three players that are battling for playing time. Russell thought freshman Maggie Gaspard had a good summer as well.
"Those are kids who are going to have to find a spot, play a role and be able to contribute for us," Russell said.
"We are moving to 4A and also moving from a single round robin division schedule to a double round robin, so instead of five games we've got 10," Russell said. "We are just going to use those early games to play a lot of kids and by the time December gets here settle in on what we want to do. I think we are going to have to play a couple of different styles."