The good news for Madison County’s foes: They won’t have to account for Courtney Freeman anymore.
The bad news: They’ll have to account for everyone else.
“We are deeper than any team in the region, I think,” said third-year coach Dan Lampe, whose team starts play Friday against Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. “It just might take us a little while to jell together.”
Freeman, who topped 2,000 points in her high school career and now plays at Appalachian State, is gone, but the remaining parts from last year’s 24-6, region championship team possesses plenty of firepower, Lampe said.
Right now, Madison County is nine deep, Lampe said, and as the season progresses, the team could go 10-11 players deep as the Lady Raiders shoot for their fifth straight trip to the state tournament.
The depth starts in the backcourt. Madison County figures to be loaded at guard with seasoned veterans Lauren Smith, Shantydra Arnold and Juvonna Fleming all returning for their senior seasons, as are younger players Sam LaZear and Molly Glaze.
“We’re at least five deep in the 1-2-3 positions,” said Lampe, who’s guided Madison County to a Final Four and Sweet 16 in his two seasons as head coach.
Madison County will look to its backcourt for both scoring and defense especially. The plan is to rotate fresh bodies in and out of games and suffocate opponents with pressure.
“In the past, I’ve had it easy, because I didn’t have to worry about subs at all,” Lampe joked.
Now, he looks to sub continuously.
“If we can play with intensity the entire game, we should be able to wear some people down,” Lampe said.
In front court, Courtney Freeman’s sister, Kayla, returns as the biggest scoring threat down low, but she’s joined by a host of “bigs” — Elizabeth Whieldon, Nekeia Brown and Kiedreuna “KeKe” Chappell — which strengthen Madison County’s overall presence at the post.
“What I thought was going to be our week point, might be on par with our guards,” Lampe said.
And Lampe is excited about what this team could do offensively.
Whereas Courtney Freeman was Madison County’s main source for points over the last four years, the points should be disbursed more evenly now in the post-Courtney era.
And with more options on the perimeter, Madison County might even be more dangerous on the offense, despite the loss of Freeman.
“I think we’re actually better offensively than we were last year,” Lampe said.
If that’s the case, Madison County, which is 72-18 since 2006, can look forward to continued success in the region. The Lady Raiders have won two of the last three region titles and have played for the 8-AAAA crown three years in a row.
But other region schools have the same aspirations.
Subregion rival and region runner-up Clarke Central didn’t lose any of its key players, so the Lady Gladiators will be tough as always. Cedar Shoals, one of the few region teams to beat Madison County last year, has many of its players back but has a new coach, its fourth in four years.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the region, Salem – which didn’t lose a single game against a region foe until being ousted in the region tournament — loses a major scorer but returns a host of great athletes.
Some are predicting the Courtney-less Lady Raiders as the third or fourth best team in 8-AAAA and not necessarily region title contenders.
But that’s a role that Lampe and his deep team gladly embrace.
“I like being in the position where nobody is expecting you to win the region,” Lampe said.