Minus six seniors and four starters from last year’s 21-12 team, the West Ouachita Lady Chiefs are counting on an influx of younger players to step in and produce.
“We are very young and inexperienced,” coach Jimbo Murphy said Monday at the Sterlington Team Camp. “We have a very long way to go.”
Lilli Osbon is the only returning starter from a lineup which lost four multi-year starters.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is it’s hard to replace a four-year starter, and we’re having to replace them with 15-year-old sophomores,” Murphy said.
Besides being in the midst of a youth movement, the Lady Chiefs are moving into Class 5A where they will be paired with Ouachita, West Monroe, Ruston, Alexandria and Pineville.
“If they reclassified today, us and Ouachita would probably be in 4A,” Murphy said. “But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is we have to get ready to play 5A basketball, and it’s going to be tough. Our district is going to be very, very athletic and competitive.”
Osbon has been a beacon of consistency for the Lady Chiefs this summer.
“Lilli is doing everything she can,” Murphy said. “We just have a lot of people who played JV last year who are trying to adapt to the speed of the varsity game.”
Among the Lady Chiefs’ losses were a pair of first-team All-District 2-4A selections, Dai Strong and Abigail Africa.
Sophomore Avery Hancock has taken over at point guard.
“Our point guard had been there for four years,” Murphy said. “Avery is not really a point guard, but that’s where we are having to play her. The only way for her to get better is to keep playing.”
Among others who have shown promise are Jillian Peacock, Carley Sweet and Alyssa Parker.
Murphy is looking for continued improvement over the remainder of the summer.
“We have battled in spurts, but we still have some growing up to do,” Murphy said.