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Edward Bell girls have experience, boys have youth to start year

Published 6:12pm Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A year after the Edward Bell boys basketball team won the Class 1A state championship, it could be the girls who are in position to make a run this season.

The Lady Bears return every single player from last year’s 15-win team that lost to Akron at Alabama State. But, despite the talent returning, head coach Nancy Shealey isn’t ready to praise her team just yet.

“We’re taking the approach that we are on the bottom until we make it to the top,” Shealey said. “We’ve gone to (Alabama State) three straight years, but for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to win. That’s taken a toll on the girls. Hopefully, we can get back with this group and we won’t be intimidated.”

Mitch Joiner’s Bears are on the opposite end of the spectrum. All five starters from last year’s title run are gone, including the Player of the Year Damien Carr.

But, Joiner said this team compares athletically to last year’s group. It’s in the star power and team chemistry areas where this team lacks early on.

“I think we’re going to be alright,” Joiner said. “We have some good all-around athletes. We don’t have a Damien Carr this year, but who does? We’re going to play the same way; that’s my style. Our thing is we have to get on the same page.

“The fast break is like a dance. Everyone has to be together, everyone has to be in unison and everyone has to know where to go. We’ve got a ways to go to get that chemistry going.”

The Lady Bears have one of the strongest trios around to lead the team. Seniors Desharte Edwards and Natalie Copeland, along with junior Kierra Billingsley, give Edward Bell inside and outside threats.

Also back is senior point guard Caneshia Smith and senior post Jamelia Wilkerson. Shealey knows the team’s capabilities, but she wants to mix up some things this season, as well.

“Everybody knows what we do because we’ve done it for a while,” Shealey said. “So we want to try to change up some things and give teams a new look.

“I think we’ll be a stronger team this season. We’ve tried to work on our physical strength more because that’s an area we’ve lacked in lately. We also need to improve a lot on our free throws.”

The Bear boys have essentially three players returning with a lot of experience, led by guard Eddie Webb, who played significant minutes in both of his team’s wins in Birmingham last year. The other two are Kiunte Dowdell and Akeem Holloway.

“Eddie is our go-to guy,” Joiner said. “He’s a shooter and a ballhandler, and he’s going to have to make things happen for us. He’s a guy that’s not afraid to take the last shot. Kiunte is about 6-1, and he plays tough down low. Akeem is a guy who is only about 5-10, but he can play multiple spots. He’s muscular and moves around well to get in the right position.”

Chris Black and Quantavis Dinkins are two players off of last year’s team who could get minutes. Two newcomers to look out for are guard Fernando Evans and freshman Ladarian Black.

“After two months of playing, hopefully we can be gelling together at the right time by the first game of the area tournament,” Joiner said. “If we can do that and get to Montgomery, anything can happen there.”

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