ECCC Women’s Basketball Looks to Build on Successful 2014-15 Season

> The East Central Community College women’s basketball team accomplished several goals during the 2014-15 season, including 20 wins and appearances in both the state and region tournaments.
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> “It was the type of season we expect at East Central,” said Head Coach Crandal Porter.
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> Now in his fourth year at the helm of the Lady Warriors, Porter says the program’s goals remain the same: 20 wins, state tournament, region tournament, and national championship tournament.
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> “The first two years we were implementing our system and recruiting the type of players to fit that system,” said Porter. “Year three things began to fall in place and we started accomplishing some of our goals. This year we have a sophomore-laden team with better leadership than the year before. They have been around the program and have a better understanding of what we are trying to do. If they can get it together on the court, then we have just as good a chance as anybody in our league to reach all of our goals.”
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> Even though he lost four key starters from last year’s 20-win team, Porter is looking for another successful season in 2015-16.
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> “We lost 80 percent of our scoring, our point guard, and our post player and that left some gaps,” he noted. “But we have seven players returning who put in a lot of minutes last year, along with two transfers who practiced with the team and understand the system.”
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> Gone from last season are Division I signees Shakerya Morrison (Florida A&M) and Tashi-ana Thompson (Southern University), Division II signee Jaleshia Jones (Delta State), and NAIA signee Tynika Bender (Tougaloo).
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> Samantha Duncan, a 5-10 guard/forward out of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, is the lone returning starter. Porter said that the highly recruited Duncan will move from a role player last year to the focal point of the offense this season.
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> Also expected to play a key role this season is Kalybriah Haskin. The 5-7 guard out of Olympian High School in Chula Vista, Calif., started 14 games last season for the Warriors. Backup forward Alexia McDonald out of Petal High School and backup point guard Johnta Hughes of Hattiesburg High School also return after seeing significant playing time last year.
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> Miracle Rushing, a 5-9 forward out of Meridian High School and a transfer from Delta State, practiced with the Lady Warriors last season, but did not play.
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> “We have players who have experience with our program, but very little starting experience,” said Porter. “They didn’t start, but they played seven to 10 minutes a game and those are going to have to turn into 25 to 30 minutes a game.”
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> Point guard Richenda Crutcher of H.W. Byers High School in Lamar, center Courtney Harper from Laurel High School, forward Jelisa Pearson from Quitman High School, and center Laterrica Jefferson from Columbus High School also were with the program last season.
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> “These players had limited minutes last year in backup roles and we will also need them step up and play more minutes this year to give us the depth we need to be successful,” said Porter.
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> Porter also will count on several newcomers. Among them are 5-7 freshman point guard Shadejha Brown from Lake High School. “She is a tough, ball-hawking defensive player who will cement us at the point guard spot,” noted Porter
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> Freshman shooting guards Aniyah Marshall and Bryona Stewart, both out of Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, should transition well into Porter’s up-tempo style of play. “Aniyah and Bryona come from a program where they won a state championship, so they know how to win. Their ability to shoot the three-pointer will fit well with our fast-paced approach to moving up and down the court.”
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> Shaima Wilson, a 5-11 freshman post player out of Pittsburg Senior High School (Calif.), also is expected to contribute. Shaliyah Wiggins, a 5-3 freshman shooting guard and all region MVP from Munford High School (Tenn.), will be eligible for the Lady Warriors in December.
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> The Lady Warriors open the season Nov. 2 at home against Coahoma Community College at 5:30 p.m. in Brackeen-Wood Gymnasium on the Decatur campus. It will be the first of 12 home games this season. East Central only plays two Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges South Division games prior to January, which Porter sees as a benefit.
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> “The key to our season is developing depth,” said Porter. “With our style of play, we need depth. If some of our players can get some early playing time and develop like we feel they can, then we can make a run at our goals. With only two division games before January, we will be able to get some playing time for some of the players that should help us down the road.”
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> New National Junior College Athletic Association rule changes in play this season include playing four, 10-minute quarters per game. With the change to four quarters, the one-and-one foul shooting bonus was eliminated. Starting this season, teams will be allowed five fouls per quarter, with players receiving two free throws after the fifth foul of each quarter. Time outs called with one minute or less remaining in the fourth quarter will result in the team with possession getting the ball at half court.
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