Last year, the Sonoraville Lady Phoenix made it all the way to the Final Four in the GHSA state playoffs. This year, they’ll be looking to replicate those results, and more.
But the journey starts in tough Region 6-AAA competition, with multiple teams in contention for the top four spots.
“Basketball’s a long season, so that’s a long way down the road, but that’s certainly what we want to do and what we want to strive to do,” head coach Stephanie Caudell said.
Caudell is entering her 14th season at the helm. “Right now, it’s just working hard on the little things that it’s going to help us be successful.”
Roster-wise, the Lady Phoenix have most players returning.
Sonoraville will feature only one senior, Maliyah Parks, who earned all-state honors last year.
Caudell will have a huge junior class with eight in their third year at SHS.
“We’ve got a lot of the same players back, so in order for us to improve as a team, our individuals have to improve,” Caudell said. “As coaches, we’ve got to continue to strive to do more than we’ve done in the past to hopefully achieve more.”
Caudell has only lost one senior starter from last year’s group, Grace Darnell. Darnell played at guard.
“She was a four-year contributor to our program,” Caudell said. “We’re going to have to fill that spot.”
Caudell said there is a lot of room for improvement in the defensive aspect of the game.
“We played a lot of younger girls last year,” Caudell said. “I think with the maturity ... I think we’re (a) stronger, more physical team. Defensively, I’m hoping that’s going to help us rebounding. It seems to be helping in practice. We’re trying to stress ... improvement on the defensive end of the floor.”
Caudell said her team’s greatest strength is the experience/veterancy returning to the court.
“I’ve got quite a few that have played in big games and in some pressure situations,” Caudell said. “They’ve had to handle adversity before.”
Caudell said her squad’s chemistry is continuing to build, as the leadership category is one Caudell is taking note of in practice.
“There’s a different dynamic around every team, so I think you have to continue to develop leaders and I think we can continue to grow in the leadership area,” Caudell said. “I think I’ve seen that from the beginning of practice until now that area is something that’s getting better, ... but I don’t think you ever have enough leadership.”
Caudell said the basketball season is lengthy and she has been reminding the girls it’s not a sprint, but a marathon.
“For us, defining success is you have done everything you can to be the best you can possibly be,” Caudell said. “As far as a goal, ... we have a tough region, so if we’re in there and we compete for a region championship, then that means we’re definitely ready to go on and be successful at the state level.”
Caudell said patrons can expect to see a team that competes night in and night out with great effort.
“We’re going to be aggressive on the defensive end ... (and) the offensive end,” Caudell said. “Hopefully, it’s going to be a style of play people want to watch.”