Lofty Expectations for Lady Eagles
Last season the young Magnolia Blue Eagles girls basketball team got a little taste of the Charleston Civic Center for the first time since 2000, when they played in the state tournament. However, that was last season; this year makes for a new beginning with a new bunch of players.What the team does this year, and moving forward, can define a positive program.
The Lady Eagles 2018-2019 team progresses without last year’s senior Logan Riggs, who guided the team through sections and regionals to pave the way to the state competition. The Eagles do return three very important puzzle pieces in Kyndra Pilant, Mady Winters, and Sierra Walker.
The Eagles’ numbers grew a little thanks to a state berth last season and a volleyball state title this year. It also helps with quite possibly having the best two basketball players in the state – Pilant and Winters – on the same team.
However, it doesn’t help that the Lady Eagles had to wait a bit to get those two and point guard Lenieca Grimm to practice due to state volleyball tournament play. Grimm was the team’s setter in the volleyball program, setting up Pilant and Winters for kills. Grimm will now be the one dishing out assists to these two top-notch players once more. Pilant and Winters secured double-doubles in volleyball and will do the same in basketball.
With losing a key player like Riggs, it hurts, but there is always someone stepping up, and this season is Grimm. However, she isn’t alone. The Lady Eagles also return Sierra Walker, who got hot from the outside and helped in last year’s sectional and regional play. She not only can score; she plays a hard-nose defensive game too.
With Pilant and Winters crashing the boards and scoring in bunches, the Magnolia girls basketball team has blossomed into a fine all-around team.
They will rely mainly on the Pilant-Winters duo to do the bulk of the scoring and rebounding, but include the outside threat of Walker and the passing of Grimm to get this well-oiled machine working properly.
Also, Lara Ann Smith has worked hard over the summer to be that fifth or first off the bench to help the Eagles get back into form, along with Aquera Cabral – who was in the Philippines last basketball season. Cabral looks to be one of the better outside shooting guards who will open the middle of the paint, where Pilant and Winters will be ready to finish the job.
Smith can play forward or guard, depending where they need her, while Cabral looks to help Grimm or Walker bring the ball down the court.
Most teams will try to press the Eagles, but the athleticism of the Eagles and the presence of Pilant can bring the ball down too.
Others who will help out are Regan Hale, along with Gabby Cecil, Olivia Mensore, Audrey Cross, Abby Clegg, Sydney Scott, Tamia Smith, Shawna Horton and 6-4 Holland Estep.
Cross looks to have all kind of talent that will hopefully get her moved up to varsity, while Estep can help inside with her soft touch and blocking shot ability.
“We will have to be strong defensively again,” said second-year Head Coach Meredith Pilant.
“Our defensive principals have to be taught to and learned by our new players, but our rebounding and inside game is our strength. We need for all our players will need to concentrate on their defense, especially our guards, who will need to look for the outlet and be able to push the ball down the floor and run, run and run.
“We need to keep Kyndra and Mady on the floor as long as we can in certain games, and keep them from heading to the bench because of fouls, and if they do, we need to come together and hold our own.”
Helping Coach Pilant is the former MHS standout Mark Winters, who is given the freedom to do what he does best – talk and show the girls the game of basketball.
If the Lady Eagles can find that diamond in the rough to replace Riggs, and stay out of foul trouble, you can bet the Blue Eagles will advance to Charleston once more.