TOLEDO -- Half of the 12 players on the Cumberland girls' basketball team are returning lettermen, including all three seniors and all three sophomores. The rest of the team are freshmen.
Cumberland coach Sammi James, who is to start her second season after going 4-24 last year and 0-4 in the Little Okaw Valley Conference Southeast Division.
"I'm so excited about the group of incoming freshmen because of their natural athleticism and love of the game," said James. "They're willing to try new things and have a light about them. So far the main focus up to this point has been getting them acquainted with our returning girls and working to get them incorporated into our half and full court offenses and defenses. I'm so proud of our returning kids for giving the underclassmen a good first experience at the high school level. We've got a great group."
Among the returning players is honorable mention all-division player Liberty Dunaway, who led the team in scoring at 6.1 points per game. Dunaway is a 5-6 senior guard. The other senior letter winners are Danae Sowers (averaged 4.9 points per game last season) and Anika Ervin. There are no juniors on the team, but the sophomores all averaged between 3-4 points per game as a freshman last season. They are Josie Brown, Jessi Shobe, and Morgan Scott.
The Lady Pirates struggled scoring last season averaging just 25.7 points per game. Dunaway is expected to be one of the top scorers on the team.
"Incoming freshman Zoe Mitchell has a great shot and will be able to shoot from the outside, "said James. "We will count on Sowers, Scott and Sage Carr (another freshman) who all like to be physical and attack the basket to know down those inside shots and free throws. "
James said the girls are resilient.
"We've been in some rough game situations and they have managed to never shut down or quit, even when it is ugly," said James. "That is really going to play out in their favor eventually because they are able to keep their composure in those tough spots."
James said the team will be about eight deep and she is pleased with leadership on the team.
"Our seniors have been phenomenal in helping our freshmen step up to the high school level and our sophomores have jumped into the leadership role as well," said James. "In fact better than I could have hoped for. I am proud of the encouragement they show each other along with the accountability."
Helping James again this year as an assistant coach is Chasity Dunaway, who coached the team in 2013-14.
"We've got some girls that are great at sharing the ball and creating opportunities for others when working on our motion offense," said James. "I have really enjoyed getting to work with them the first couple of weeks."
Cumberland has not won five games in a season since 2012-13.
"We want to get better every day individually and collectively by focusing on our process, said James. whose team is to begin play in the LOVC SE division Jan. 10 at Oblong. "The process means controlling what we can control, which is our mindset, effort, and actions. We're trying to be better every day as athletes and as people. The goal is to see growth and progress every time we're on the floor, whether it be practice or a game. We want to look to compete and represent well every day."