Phil Campbell hoops teams tip off Tuesday

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
The 2006-07 basketball season for the Phil Campbell Lady Bobcats could be designated in the history books as the year 1 A.T.
A.T., as in "After Tanna."
Tanna Benford finished her storied career at Phil Campbell as the all-time leading scorer in Franklin County basketball history. She led the Lady Bobcats to 17 wins and a berth in the Northwest Regional Tournament as a senior last season, scoring 35 points in a dramatic, come-from-behind win over Lexington in the Class 2A sub-regionals.
"Tanna was a special player," said Phil Campbell coach Amy Moss, whose second season as head coach will begin on Tuesday with a game at Haleyville. "She obviously had all the fundamental skills on the court, but she also had a rare knowledge of the game. She was a quiet leader for us. I'll never forget the look on her face late in the game against Lexington, the way she just pulled everybody together and said we weren't going to lose. I'm glad she got the opportunity, along with our other two seniors [Jodi Taff and Alis Hutcheson], to play at Wallace State."
If the Lady Bobcats are to return to Hanceville this season, they must find a way to overcome the loss of the best player in the program's history.
Senior forward Shelly Cooper, junior guard Chasity Morgan and freshman guard Caitlin Stancil, all of whom played key supporting roles last year, now bear the burden of replacing Benford's production and leadership.
"We're still looking for somebody to step up and fill that void," Moss said. "Shelly, Chasity and Caitlin will all have to step up. That group was key to our success last year, and we'll be counting on them even more this year."
Cooper, the team's lone senior, led the team in field-goal percentage last season and was second behind Benford in scoring.
"Shelly really stepped up her scoring after Christmas last year," Moss said. "We need her to continue doing that."
Morgan averaged seven points per game last year while running the point, and Moss said the lightning-quick guard may be asked to look for her own shot a little more often with Benford gone.
"Chasity will probably have to be more of a scorer this year," Moss said. "She already has that one thing you can't teach, and that's speed."
Stancil gave the Lady Bobcats tremendous energy off the bench last year, and now she must adjust to playing even more minutes. That means staying out of foul trouble, something she struggled with last year as an 8th-grader.
"Caitlin has really improved," Moss said. "She's more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket. She's also worked on playing tough defense without getting into foul trouble."
Junior guard Alissa Smith will also play a key role, and sophomore post player Jessica Taylor will be counted on to help replace Taff's rebounding and defense in the paint.
"Jessica will be one of our top post players, but she also has a good outside shot," Moss said. "We need her to step up, because we're going to be at even more of a size disadvantage this year than we were last year. We'll have to make up for that by playing hard on defense and forcing some turnovers, using our speed to get out in the open court."
Speaking of getting out in the open court, that's exactly what the Phil Campbell boys plan to do as they prepare for Tuesday's opener at Haleyville.
"Basketball is a running game, and as long as that's the case that's the way we're going go play," said head coach Gary Odom, who guided Phil Campbell to the Northwest Regional finals last season in his first year as head coach. "That's the only way I know how to play."
An up-and-down game figures to best suit the Bobcats, who lost four senior starters from a year ago. Among those was leading rebounder and shot-blocker Corey Odom, by far the team's strongest post presence last season.
"We're definitely not going to be big," Odom said. "Our guys will have to box out and work hard to get rebounds. Shooting-wise, I think we have a chance to be better than last year, if we continue to shoot the ball the way we did over the summer. We'll probably be a little quicker at some spots this year, and we definitely want to get out in the open court and use our speed."
Senior forward Brett Thomas, who averaged 6.7 points and 4.7 rebounds last year, is the team's lone returning starter. That's a bit misleading, though, considering that two-guard Jay Steward also saw heavy minutes as a junior last year off the bench.
Steward's athleticism and tenacity on defense are his strong suits, but he'll be expected to contribute more on offense this season.
"Even though he came off the bench, Jay played more than some of our starters last year," Odom said. "I had a lot of coaches last year ask me about Jay. They would come up to me and say, 'Why isn't this guy starting?' What we were doing with Jay coming off the bench was working, so we stuck with it. We're really counting on him to help us in a lot of areas this season."
Senior guard Chase Hutcheson is another player who projects to take on a larger role this season.
"Chase gave us some good minutes off the bench last year, and he's another guy who will have to step up for us," Odom said. "There's a little more pressure involved when you go from coming off the bench to being one of the main guys, and Jay and Chase will be dealing with that this season."
They'll have plenty of help from a strong group of players moving up from last year's B-Team that includes Caleb Thompson, Tanner Maddox, Jonathan Dill, Chris Baker and Tate Canida.
"We've got some good shooters coming up off the B-Team," Odom said. "Tanner Maddox has a really good-looking shot, and Caleb Thompson can shoot it, too. We're also expecting Jonathan Dill to help us a lot as soon as he gets healthy.
"Last year we pretty much played seven guys, and this year I think we might even be a little deeper. I've already sat down with each of these guys and told them what's expected of them. They know what their roles are."
Junior forward Steven Lacey is back after sitting out last season with a shoulder injury, and 6-foot-2 seniors James England and Josh Wilson offer depth inside.
Odom said last year's trip to Hanceville will be beneficial to this year's team.
"Making that run last year was good because it gave our guys some experience," he said. "They've seen what they're capable of doing, and it helped them believe that they have a chance to win. I'm not sure we thought we had a chance when last year started, but now these guys know."

News

US-43 traffic lights in front of Walmart malfunctioning

News

Ivey announces $500,000 grant to improve Red Bay water lines

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Eric Reason

News

Community Spirit Bank welcomes new employee

News

Pilgrim’s sponsors Russellville Public Library summer reading program

Franklin County

First ‘Canada Phil’ visits Phil Campbell, adds sign to post

Features

National scholarship propels one Russellville student into Ivy League

Belgreen

Belgreen presents ‘Beauty and the Beast’

News

RCS Education Foundation holds annual banquet

Franklin County

Partnership Banquet highlights Franklin County accomplishments

News

50th Phil joins PC signpost

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Jerry Fancher

News

RHS ranks 21/386 for Alabama high schools in U.S. News & World Report

News

RHS FLBA students compete at state

Galleries

RMS students perform ‘Aladdin’

Franklin County

PHOTOS: NWSCC Phil Campbell campus presents ‘Shrek the Musical’

News

Russellville Main Street welcomes new executive director

News

BTCPA announces final production of season

News

Wynette Grammy finds home at Red Bay Museum

Franklin County

Northwest Shoals receives $1.3M to enhance rural healthcare education

Galleries

PHOTOS: RHS Musical Theatre presents ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Franklin County

Northwest Regional Library announces audiobooks by mail program

Franklin County

Republican primary run-off election for county commission seats takes place April 16

News

Historic Roxy Theatre celebrates 75th Anniversary with upcoming entertainment

x