TOLEDO – Cumberland has nine players on the girls' basketball team this year, with no seniors and two juniors. However, five of the players are returning letter winners from a 7-22 team that finished 2-4 in the Little Okaw Valley Conference Southeast Division. The seven wins were the most since the 2012-13 season.
Both juniors Josie Brown and Morgan Scott are back, as well as three of the four sophomores in Stormy Robinson, Paula Fernandez, Sage Carr, and Stormy Robinson.
"This is a great group of girls," third-year coach Sammi James said. "Their age doesn't represent what they are capable of. They are focused and selfless. I can't explain how proud I am of the fact that they do what is best for the group with no questions asked. They have a strong desire to improve as a whole. Their ability to listen and adapt is going to serve them well."
Brown is the top returning scorer at 6.6 points per game, while Mitchell averaged 6.2 and Carr 5.2.
"We have been working a lot on being aggressive and attacking the basket and on our shot selection as a whole," said James, whose team averaged 32.2 points and allowed 48 per game last season.
Gone from last year are three players, including Liberty Dunaway, who averaged 6.7 points per game.
"We have been focusing on man-to-man defense, motion offense and a smooth transition between the two," James said.
Other players on the team are sophomore Paula Fernandez and freshmen Hayley Brassard, Abbie Becker, and Kate Shirley.
The Lady Pirates are 0-3 and will play in the Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City Thanksgiving Tournament next starting Tuesday against the host school at 8:30 p.m. The three losses were by an average of 12.6 points, including a 38-36 loss to Martinsville. The other losses were to Edwards County (47-30) and Brownstown/St. Elmo (52-33).
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Mitchell is the top scorer on the team, with an average of 12 points per game, while Brown and Carr are next at 7.5 and 7.3, respectively.
"The defense we play depends, but mainly a 1-2-2 and man-to-man defense," James said.
With nine players, Cumberland will be a deep team.
"Everyone has significant minutes to give," said James
The tallest player for the Lady Pirates is Shirley, who is 5-10. Carr, 5-8 is the top rebounder and averages six per game.
"The girls are very coachable," James said. "They listen and make changes and are willing to take constructive criticism. They are strong and function as a whole, which is all I can ask for as a coach."
As for team goals, James said, "We are trying to get better every day. They are doing things the right way with the right attitude and work ethic, good things are coming for these girls."
Cumberland opens play in the Lincoln Prairie Conference Dec. 5 at Argenta-Oreana.