For the third year in a row, the Southwestern Lady Warriors will be young as they start three sophomores. However, the Lady Warriors are far from being inexperienced.
“I have four sophomores — Devin Fothergill, Ashley Fowler, Heather Overton and Stephanie Slayers — that have played in over 100 varsity games already and that is counting two years of summer ball,” Southwestern coach Tim Rice said. “Yeah, we may be young but we have plenty of playing experience.”
Last year, Southwestern won eight of their first 10 games, which included a runner-up finish in the Berea Invitational and an AP state top-20 ranking.
“We really started out the season strong last year,” Rice said. “We beat Wayne County over there and that was a big win for our program.”
“A lot of people think we struggled down the stretch, but we didn’t,” Rice said. “We played a tough schedule and lost a couple of close games that very easily could have went our way.”
The Lady Warriors finished runner-up to Wayne County in the 48th District Tournament at the Wigwam last year. The Lady Warriors had downed Wayne County in their two regular season games.
Southwestern fell to Lincoln County 55-49 in the first round of the 12th Region Tournament held at Lincoln County High School.
The Lady Warriors may have the toughest schedule of any team in the region.
This year, the Lady Warriors have been rewarded for last year’s strong performance with an invitation to the prestigious Lexington Catholic Fifth Third Bank Prime Time Classic. Southwestern will get to play and watch some of the best programs in the state in this year’s event.
The Lady Warriors will also play in the Owensboro Invitational and a tournament at Lexington Dunbar High School.
To prepare for these three strong holiday tournaments, the Lady Warriors have a tough stretch of games that include cross-town rivals Somerset and Pulaski County. Then, they will host district foes Wayne County.
Southwestern graduated two guards — Jessica Girdler and Jessica Douglas from last year’s team, which will force Rice to move some of his bigger girls out on the perimeter. Jasi Flynn and Ashley Fowler will play move out on the perimeter, which is a change from their inside play of the past.
For the third year in a row, sophomore Devin Fothergill will play the point and direct the Lady Warrior offense.
“We are looking for Devin to take the leadership role of this team,” Rice said. “She knows our system as well as I do and we expect to see he make good decisions on the floor.”
“Devin needs to take the ball to the bucket more and draw the fouls,” Rice added. “Devin is just a good all-around player that was our second-leading rebounder as a guard.”
Devin’s eighth-grade little sister Danay Fothergill will be the back-up point guard.
Southwestern senior Jasi Flynn will look to give the Lady Warriors their inside scoring and rebounding. Flynn, the 2005-06 Commonwealth Journal Female Player of the Year, averaged 11.8 points per game to lead the Lady Warrior team that had five players averaging over 7 points per game. Flynn led the Lady Warriors in rebounds with 133, she had 67 assists, 20 block shots and 32 steals.
Flynn was obviously dangerous inside, but left open beyond the three-point arc, she was even more dangerous as she nailed 28 treys on the season and she hit 36 percent of her attempts from three land.
Senior Chasidy Zimmerman is hoping to finish up her prep career with a bang. Zimmerman, a 5’10” shooting forward, is a coach’s dream. She had the height to score inside and she had the shooting touch to score from beyond the arc.
Zimmerman scored 152 points inside and scored another 120 points from three-point land. Zimmerman averaged 7.8 points per game last year as a junior.
“Chasidy will be handling the ball a lot more in the backcourt this year and she has worked at shooting off the dibble over the summer,” Rice said. “We need her to continue to shoot the three and go to the foul line more.”
The biggest change for the Lady Warriors will be Ashley Fowler’s move from a forward to the shooting guard position. Because of her height and the past abundance of guards, Fowler has always played down low for the Lady Warriors.
“Fowler is a pure shooter and the guard position is a more natural position for her to play,” Rice said. “Because of her height she will be hard to defend at the guard position and we feel she will have a big year at her new position.”
Two sophomores — Heather Overton and Stephanie Salyers — will rotate in the center position for the Lady Warriors.
Last year coming off the bench, Heather Overton was named all-district and all-region. Rice is looking for that strong post-season play by Overton to carry into this season.
“Heather always plays hard and she is probably the best hard-nosed player I have ever coached,” Rice said. “She drives to the basket, she works the boards, she is a good defender and she gets a lot of deflections.”
Six-foot sophomore Stephanie Salyers will see a lot of minutes at the center position as well. Rice sees Salyers starting in some situations and will be a big player off the bench in games she doesn’t start.
Southwestern will have to adjust having bigger players out on their perimeter which may produce some turnovers in the early goings, but the increased height should play to their advantage.
The Lady Warriors are about six to seven players deep so foul trouble could be an issue. However, by midseason some of the Lady Warriors’ younger players may see some minutes off the bench.
The loss of Girdler and Douglas will show in early games until the Lady Warriors adjust to their new positions and new roles. But rest assured, when the Lady Warriors get their line-up set they will be one of the favorites come district and regional tournament time.