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Picayune’s girls basketball team adjusts to injuries

The fickle nature of sports means that a team’s fortunes can vary from game to game.

Unfortunately for Picayune’s girls varsity basketball team, adversity struck early with the team losing its leading scorer and senior leader partially into the season.

The loss of such a valuable player could easily derail a team’s plans for the year, but Head Coach Scott Stephens and his squad took the hit and kept fighting.

Due to the untimely injury, younger players were asked to step up and fill the void.

There were some growing pains at the beginning as the new athletes caught up with the speed of the game, but as the team got more experience confidence amongst the players grew.

“We definitely took our lumps early through the season,” Stephens said.

“We then started improving and we were definitely playing our best basketball in the tournament.”

Now the players have significant playing experience, and that helps in dealing with those pressure situations.

Rianna McNeely, Sarah Stockstill, Deniyah Freeman and Kylah Walker are just a few of the key returning players this season. Stephens said these athletes will play a major role in the failure or success of the team.

“The key for the upcoming season is to have a spark, we need a person to provide that x factor,” Stephens said.

“That’s something with the graduating seniors that we’re going to miss the most.”

In basketball, there are times when a coach can’t script how things will go, so having a player who can make a play is incredibly important.

There will be a variety of role changes within the squad as well. The returning players will now be expected to shoulder more of the responsibility when it comes to leadership and scoring.

Some athletes will have to transition to being in the limelight, and Stephens said that’s something the girls are willing to do.

Last season there were multiple games where it came down to the last possession, he said.

Having a veteran player on the team during those situations can prove invaluable, and that’s why Stephens thinks there will be an improvement this upcoming season.

Last year the team was unable to get some of the close wins needed to get to the postseason.

However, now his players have the knowledge to handle those scenarios, and Stephens is hoping they will come out on top. Expectations haven’t shifted over the years for Stephens and his club, and he’s continuing to set the bar high.

“We always meet first week of school to set our goals,” Stephens said.

“Our goal every year is to win the regular season, win the tournament and get to the state tournament.”

Those goals may be met this year with Stephens saying his athletes are already working to get better.

“The girls are talking about it to each other saying ‘We can do this,’” Stephens said.