I have not attended as many games as I would normally three weeks into the season. To date I have seen only seen three game nights. Marion Boys twice, Mullins boys once, Marion girls twice and Mullins girls none. Saturday night I got to see Marion girls in the A&J final against Hartsville. Swamp Foxes had a 20 plus point lead and had to stave off a furious second half run to beat the Lady Red Foxes. Here is some of what I saw.
Marion girls have gone through a big transformation from last season to this. Not that last season was bad season. They lost seven games all of last year, one of them to eventual State Champs Bishop England in a second round playoff game in which they very well could have won. With the respectable record last season to me they did not play well the whole season. This year is different. They are playing as a unit now and cohesive, on the same page and a potential juggernaut. Their defensive intensity, their offensive efficiency their team spirit is spot on so far. They have a new coach and he seems to have them moving in the direction that their fans have come to expect. They have played so well that they have climbed from a top 5 or so preseason ranking all the way to the number one spot in the polls. Their record sits at 11-0. Let’s take a closer look at some of the team members who are driving this turnaround.
Let me start by saying that this is essentially the same girls who have been playing together right through middle school but there are four 10th graders right now contributing mightily this season. They are Kevianna (KD) Dixon, Kanyiah Davis, Yazmie Howard and Destiny Allen. Without getting into too much detail about them right now I will just say that the first two have beast mode potential as frontcourt players, the other two are guards, Howard is being groomed to run the point the next two years and Allen is a defensive firebrand. All four are held in very high esteem by their coach and are the corner-stones going forward but they are each carving out minutes for themselves right now. Dixon is probably the most raw but she will be called on more next year with the seniors moving on after this year. Now let’s talk about the ones who are driving the bus right now.
Kimmie Barnes is a versatile guard, small forward, power forward who is one of the key cogs that makes this all work. She is a fierce defender and usually is at the front end of the press. She is good enough to create offense from the defense. When she gets the steal or create a turnover she can take the ball off the dribble where she can finish at the rim, dish to teammates or even step or closer and drill jump shots. She has five position-potential.
Tonaja Lester brings the toughness either at guard or in the front court. She can handle it, shoot and plays physical on the defensive end. This year I see her having returned to the form she displayed as middle schooler and a freshman in high school. She is smart and can facilitate the offense. Crazy thing is when she picks up a foul she usually gets her money’s worth. She will knock the stuffing out of you. Oh yeah, built solid and is one of the strongest players on the team from my perspective. If she is playing well, Swamp Foxes are very tough to beat.
Senior Keyla Britt is the starting point guard and has a great skill set. Her handles are pure and sure, she is a wonderful distributor and can take over a game offensively if she is called on to do so. You won’t find too many teams in the state who has a tough gritty point guard who can run a team like she can. If she is right, don’t be shocked if this team runs all the way to a date in Columbia come March
I will go ahead and talk about the two bigs in tandem. Alierria Rogers and Precious Davis are both at a point right now when they can complement each other in the front court. Davis is a big physical girl with bounce and ups. She also can be unstoppable when she gets the ball in the post because she has moves and is strong enough to finish in traffic and enough bounce to rebound well off both boards. I said this to someone the other day, In Precious, Marion has points on deck in a close game when the outside shots are not falling or the defense is defending the perimeter well and shots are tough to come, toss it down to her a few times and that could loosen things up some after she hits a few. Rogers is another senior and kind of a late bloomer. Been watching her for the past three years and she is playing now the way I envisioned her playing. For a tall girl she has smooth ball handling, can rebound, an excellent shot blocker, passer and can score. The thing that got my attention was when I saw her on JV. I watched her block a shot, get the ball, push it up the floor in the middle of the break and dish for easy transition buckets. She has come into her own and with the multifaceted components to her game. She is going to be extremely important as the season moves forward. These two along with Yamzah (Muffy) Buey, who is also a senior, supplies her team with smart heady and determined leadership. She has a great handle and a nice long range springer jump shot.
Swamp Foxes are rolling right now unbeaten and top ranked. Nice way to kick off the season.
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