As the losses pile up, Anthony Lippe is starting to embark on a youth movement.
Four freshmen suited up for the Lady Pioneers Monday in a 57-36 loss to Cannon County, the team’s 10th straight to start the season. Two of the youngest Lady Pioneers ended up leading the team in scoring as Kyra Perkins and Shelby Smartt scored 10 and nine points, respectively.
Brienne Kelsey added three points, her first varsity points, while Mia Hobbs suited up for the varsity squad for the third time and played big minutes in the second half.
Mired in a lengthy losing streak, Lippe is using more and more time in games working toward building the future of the program.
“Our freshmen are getting the experience we need them to get to help us build our program,” said Lippe. “We are really focusing on skill development with our players and, as far as game experience goes, there’s only one way to get that. They know I expect a lot out of them and I coach them just as hard as I do our seniors.”
Spots have opened up in the last 10 days to give more time to the youngsters.
Senior guard Hallie Jo Pennington went down with a knee injury against Tullahoma Dec. 6 and hasn’t played in the last three games. Pennington is hopeful she can return later in the season with her walking without crutches on the Lady Pioneer bench serving as a good sign.
Starting post Rhealee Johnson made the decision to leave the team late last week, opening up even more minutes for the young players. Early individual results have been promising, even if it hasn’t translated to the scoreboard.
Perkins showed no fear coming off the bench against Cannon County, scoring six straight points to start the second quarter. Perkins started with a steal and layup, then went coast-to-coast for a floater on the next possession.
She added a midrange jumper later in the period, though the Lady Lions built a 27-12 lead by halftime.
Smartt, who has played on varsity since the opening game, has shown a growing comfort attacking in the last three outings. After scoring just nine points in her first seven games, Smartt has scored nine in two of the team’s last three games.
The young guard had a pair of floating finishes in the second half against Cannon County. Smartt also sank 5-of-7 from the line.
“It will take some time. We will still be young next year, but with the experience they are getting from this year, we should be able to build from that,” said Lippe.
Syndey Burger, a sophomore, also got her first varsity points late in the contest, splitting a pair of free throws.
Senior leading scorer Beth Vaughn was held to just five points against Cannon County after matching her career-high with 16 points in Saturday’s 69-54 loss at Pickett County. Kam Nowlin also set a new career mark against Pickett County, matching Vaughn with 16 points.
Nowlin, Brielee Kelsey, Lia Wright and Madalyn Stubblefield all finished with two points in Monday’s home loss.