The LaGrange College women's basketball team has high expectations entering the 2019-20 campaign, as the Panthers tip off their regular season on Saturday with a 5 p.m. game at Oglethorpe during the USA/SAA Classic in Atlanta.
LaGrange will play a total of 25 regular-season games, with 14 being played at Mariotti Gym. The team's home opener will be on Monday, Nov. 18, against Judson at 5:30 p.m.
|Senior captain Sarah Evans enters her fourth year with the program.|
LaGrange will jump into USA South play at Brevard on Nov. 30. The Panthers open their home conference schedule on Dec. 14 against Maryville. LaGrange and Maryville met three times last season, including in the first round of the USA South Tournament.
"I believe we have the most talented group of players since I have been a part of the program, so I have high expectations of going out with a conference championship," said senior captain and center Sarah Evans. "I will have the most experience on the team, which is something I do not take lightly."
Panthers head coach Lee Buchanan is entering his seventh year, as he has guided the program to the USA South playoffs in each of his first six seasons. He has a 92-68 overall record and a 52-40 conference record, along with four playoff victories. From 2014-16, he guided the Panthers to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Austin Buchanan '17 enters his seventh year as an assistant coach. Riley Chlupacek '19 will transition to her new role as a graduate assistant coach. She was a four-year standout at the guard position for the Panthers from 2015-19, ranking eighth in program history in made 3-pointers (102).
The Panthers have a strong mix of veterans and rookies, with 11 returning players. The program welcomes seven freshmen and a sophomore transfer. The squad will be anchored by three outstanding senior captains in guard Sadie Desroches, forward Mykelli Taylor and Evans.
Desroches started all 26 games last season, leading the team with 2.7 assists per game. She finished with 71 assists on the season; the 10th most in a single season in program history.
Taylor appeared in 24 games, making 21 starts. She recorded six steals at Covenant, which was the most by any Panther in 2018-19. Evans started all 26 games last year, averaging 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
"The captains have worked hard and prepared themselves to have tremendous senior seasons," said Lee Buchanan. "They have done a great job with their leadership, helping all the student-athletes learn and grow as basketball players."
Junior Jahpera McEachin led the Panthers in steals per game (1.6) and free-throw percentage (79.4, 50-63) last season. She shot 41.9 percent from 3-point range (36-86) and 44.9 percent from the floor (88-196), while averaging the second-most points (10.1) on the team.
Junior Daijah Cousins appeared in all 26 games off the bench during the 2018-19 season. She finished with eight assists against Wesleyan, which was the most by any Panther in a single game last season. Junior Charley Amissah-Reyes averaged the second-most rebounds on the team in 2018-19 (4.0), while junior Megan English shot 43.5 percent from 3-point range.
"We have a lot of talent from last year's returners and many new talented freshmen," said Taylor. "A few goals we have as a team are to have a positive mindset, be eager to learn, and to have a successful winning season."
"This season means a lot because I get to share it with a group of people, who all have the same mission and goal to win games, win a championship, and hang a banner," said Desroches. "I believe with the team's work ethic and passion, that we will battle every night with heart and hustle."
The newcomers are expected to play a vital role in the program's evolution, as they bring fundamentals and a strong basketball IQ.
"Our newcomers are a talented group that should be able to help us in a lot of areas," said Lee Buchanan. "We have added size, athleticism and shooters to the team. I am eager to see how the new players will contribute to our overall success."
Lee Buchanan went into detail about the skill sets of each one.
#1 Catherine Skebo – Skebo, a 5-foot-6 freshman guard, played high school basketball at Trinity Christian. Skebo stretches opposing defenses with her strong outside shooting.
#3 Nia Johnson – Johnson, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward, played high school basketball at Jefferson and gained collegiate experience at Emmanuel during the 2018-19 season. Johnson's experience with the college game and low-post skills will be vital components this season. Johnson is also comfortable stepping out and taking 15-foot jumpers.
#10 Emma Rose – Rose, a 5-foot-7 freshman guard, played high school basketball at Centennial. Rose's strong 3-point shooting and high basketball IQ will allow her to transition smoothly to the collegiate game.
#14 Hayleigh Reeves – Reeves, a 5-foot-5 freshman guard, played high school basketball at Citrus. Reeves brings a strong shooting touch and fundamentals to the team.
#23 Morgan Grant – Grant, a 5-foot-10 freshman forward, played high school basketball at Glenwood. Grant's versatility has been impressive in practice, as she has shown the ability to score, rebound and play tough defense.
#31 Makayla Phillips – Phillips, a 5-foot-10 freshman forward, played high school basketball at Albertville. Phillips is a well-rounded player, who is not afraid to play lockdown defense.
#32 Jada Strickland – Strickland, a 6-foot freshman center, played high school basketball at St. Paul Lutheran. Strickland's size and strength in the post will make her an important factor.
#35 Breonna Glover – Glover, a 6-foot freshman forward, played high school basketball at Tattnall Square Academy. Glover is expected to earn playing time right away, as she has shown the ability to play inside and out.