Throughout the lady Scots’ dominant 6-0 run to start the regular season, head coach David Williams has repeatedly stressed the importance of establishing roster depth. He has tinkered with various lineups and insured that all of his players saw ample minutes during those wins, which mostly came by way of blowouts.
Now, as the team enters the most critical stretch of their season, Scotland will have to rely on the depth they’ve attempted to build more than ever before.
The 2011-12 Southeastern Conference player of the year and leading scorer Jonissa Monley suffered a broken foot over the holiday break and is expected to be out of action until the end of January, after the first round of conference play has finished.
“It’s definitely tough for us, because she’s our leader and you can’t replace what she brings to this team,” Williams said. “But even with her out, my expectation to run the conference table remains the same, and all of my players will have to play extremely hard to make that happen.”
The lady Scots were without Monley Dec. 27 as the team traveled to Florence, S.C. to participate in the ‘Little Caesars Invitational’ holiday basketball tournament, which featured seven other teams from the South Carolina midlands.
Scotland would finish with a 2-1 record, good for third place in the tournament.
And though they lost their first game of the season to West Florence High School by a score of 55-54, the insertion of forward Quintavia Deberry into the starting lineup gave the lady Scots cause for optimism moving ahead with the regular season.
In her three games starting for Scotland, Deberry averaged a double-double (15.3 points-per-game, 15.6 rebounds-per-game) and solidified herself as one of the players that will boost the lady Scots in Monley’s absence.
“Quintavia really stepped up for us over the break,” Williams said. “I’ve said before that she’s our best rebounder, and combine that with how well-conditioned she is showed that she is capable of making the most of her extended minutes.”
The first game of the holiday tournament saw a familiar scene play out for those who have followed the lady Scots this season. Against Latta High School (out of Latta, S.C.), Scotland vaulted out to an 18-6 lead in the first quarter and put the game out of reach in the early goings to best the lady Vikings by a score of 55-44.
Scotland would then face the West Florence lady Knights, who have compiled an 11-3 record this season, in the second game of the tournament. It would prove to be a back-and-forth contest between the two teams and was ultimately decided by Scotland’s lack of productive free throw shooting down the stretch (they were 14-25 for the game) and the overall size advantage belonging to West Florence.
“They (West Florence) hurt us on the boards, and we’ll have to play more zone defense in general without Jonissa starting for us,” Williams said. “We’ll be mixing and matching our lineups until she comes back, because we’re definitely a smaller team now.”
Despite being narrowly edged by West Florence, the lady Scots bounced back in a big way against South Florence in their final tournament game. Though they were up just two points heading into the half, Scotland would blow past the lady Bruins with a 19-point third quarter en route to the decisive 60-43 win.
When it was all said and done, two of Scotland’s starting players were selected to the All-Tournament squad: Point guard Ariel Ratcliff and center Destiny Campbell. Ratcliff averaged 11.3 points, three steals and nearly five assists-per-game, while Campbell saw her most productive stretch of the young season with averages of 14 points and eight rebounds through the three games.
And with the regular season resuming Jan. 8 at Wilmington-Laney, players like Ratcliff, Campbell and Deberry will be called upon to lead the lady Scots until their best offensive weapon once again takes the court.
“Now we’ll get to see how important it was to establish our bench early in the season,” Williams said. “The key will be to get all of our players comfortable in their roles and confident playing within the system we have in place.”