Women’s Basketball: Panthers tabbed fifth in USA South West Division Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Women’s Basketball: Panthers tabbed fifth in USA South West Division Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Link: USA South Release

The 2019-20 USA South Preseason Coaches' Poll was released on Thursday, as the LaGrange College women's basketball team was picked fifth with 33 points in the West Division.

Piedmont, which is the three-time defending USA South champion, was picked to finish first in the West Division with 64 points and eight first-place votes. Mary Baldwin earned the first spot in the East Division with 57 points, while Greensboro was right behind with 56 points and four first-place votes. The top-six seeded teams from the West and East Division will qualify for the postseason tournament.

The Panthers return 11 players from the 2018-19 team and add eight newcomers, including seven freshmen. Panthers head coach Lee Buchanan returns for his seventh year at the helm of the program, as he has accumulated a 92-68 record over his first six seasons. Lee Buchanan has led the team to the USA South Tournament in each of his first six years, powering the squad to the semifinals in three-straight years from 2014-16.

Austin Buchanan '17, who is the son of Lee Buchanan, will be entering his seventh season as an assistant coach. Riley Chlupacek '19, who played for the Panthers from 2015-19, will be beginning her first year as a graduate assistant coach, as she finished her career with the eighth-most 3-pointers (102) in program history.

The Panthers went 13-13 overall last winter and 7-9 in the USA South, finishing in a tie for fifth in the West Division. LaGrange was defeated by Maryville in the first round of the conference tournament in Maryville, Tennessee, at the Panthers and Scots met three times last season.

The Panthers' 2019-20 schedule features 25 regular-season games, 16 conference games and 14 games at Mariotti Gym. LaGrange's home opener will be against Judson on Monday, Nov. 18, at 5:30 p.m. The unit will leap into its conference schedule with a 2 p.m. game at Brevard on Nov. 30. The group will play three conference games before winter break, as its first home one will be against Maryville on Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.

"Once again, we have a demanding schedule," said Lee Buchanan. "It will be nice to play 14 games on our home floor in Mariotti Gym this year because all the travel involved in our conference can be difficult. Our USA South Conference schedule is always tough. I am hopeful that by returning 11 players from a year ago that we can have a smooth transition into the new season."

The 2019-20 squad will be led by an outstanding trio of senior captains in Mykelli Taylor, Sarah Evans and Sadie Desroches.

Desroches led the 2018-19 Panthers with 2.7 assists per game and finished the year with 71 assists, which is the 10th most in a single season in program history. Taylor totaled six steals at Covenant on Feb. 9, which was the most by any Panther last season. Additionally, she dropped a season-high 15 points against Bob Jones on Nov. 15. Evans started all 26 games, averaging 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

The Panthers will have a strong junior class this winter, highlighted by forward Charley Amissah-Reyes, and guards Daijah Cousins and Jahpera McEachin.

McEachin was a strong source of point production last season, averaging the second most (10.1) on the team. She was also efficient, shooting 79.4 percent from the free-throw line, 41.9 percent from 3-point range and 44.9 percent from the floor. McEachin scored in double figures in 15-of-26 games.

Cousins recorded eight assists against Wesleyan on Jan. 16, which was the most by any Panther in a single game during the 2018-19 season. Amissah-Reyes averaged the second-most rebounds (4.0) on the team and scored a season-high 10 points against Judson on Nov. 9.

The Panthers will compete in a 7 p.m. exhibition game against NCAA Division I Mercer on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Macon, Georgia. LaGrange's first regular-season tilt will be on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Oglethorpe in Atlanta during the USA/SAA Classic.