Madison County rallied from a lackadaisical start in summer ball to win nine of its last 10 games, hammering region foes Monroe Area, Cedar Shoals and Heritage by an average of 30-plus points in that stretch.
Second-year head coach Dan Lampe called his team’s moderate start, “the TT hangover,” in reference to the graduation of all-state forward Tiawanna Allen.
“But (we) ended great ... I guess as a coach you like to see that improvement as the summer goes on,” said Lampe, whose team went 25-7 last year and reached the Class AAAA Final Four.
Effort in running the floor and crashing the boards led to Madison County’s second-half resurgence. The Lady Raiders were named “best rebounding team” in the top division at a team camp at the University of North Carolina, while individual highlights from the summer were aplenty.
Star player Courtney Freeman took on a more vocal role on the court and proved that she’s even more dangerous with the basketball thanks to improved ball-handling skills, according to Lampe. Meanwhile, Kayla Freeman dominated the boards and ran the floor “unlike any other six-foot post,” according to the coach. Madison County might have another scorer in Elizabeth Whieldon, who showed her offensive prowess with a 24-point game at the North Carolina camp while Shantydra Arnold had a “Kobi game,” according to Lampe, with a 30-point outburst against Duluth.
However, Lauren Smith, who Lampe said slumped a bit last year, was perhaps the biggest surprise by running the point guard position “with precision and poise.”
“Other than team effort increasing the second half of the summer, I think her play was a key to our turn-around,” Lampe said.
Others drawing praise were Haley Peeples for her athleticism and effort; Juvonna Fleming, who has become the Lady Raiders’ lock-down defender for perimeter players (one of the things Allen always did, Lampe noted); and Kim Curry and Molly Glaze, who might be the answer for the Lady Raiders perimeter shooting questions.
Lampe also said that Juleigh Fouche is an energy player “that really brings it on defense” and that Amber Strickland showed improvement and provided solid minutes in the paint.
“The main obstacle for this team is to consistently bring effort to each game,” Lampe said. “I told them when we don’t, we are average at best.”
But Madison County seeks to be well above average this year.
“Courtney vocalized the goal for this team, ‘Win our last game at state,’” Lampe said.