Clayton Parrish has lofty goals for his Lady Bucs basketball team. But he's not worried about his players getting lost in the clouds.
"Our expectations are probably higher than many of the teams in this area," said Lady Buccaneer Head Coach Clayton Parrish, who is beginning his ninth season as engineer of the girl's basketball program at Briarwood Academy. "We now set forth to play for the region and state championships every year. Our ultimate goal is to make a return trip to the GISA State Class AA Final Four."
Anne Wills steps on to the court as one of the top players in the Georgia Independent Schools Association. She's also on track to break the Briarwood's scoring record.
Photo by Mercer Harris
The Lady Bucs have four goals, Coach Parrish said.
"They are to not lose a region game, then to win the regular season region title, then to win the region tournament, and ultimately, earn a trip to the Final Four," he said.
The 2004-2005 schedule for the Briarwood Lady Buccaneers will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 30 with the first game in the Garden City Basketball Classic at Augusta Prep. That tournament will continue through the weekend of Friday, Dec. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 4.
This year's squad consists of 18 young ladies that have high hopes in reaching all of their goals, including a trip to the Final Four. In this group, there are six seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and seven freshmen.
The group of seniors include Ashley Pickard, Anne Wills, Leslie Lynam, Mallory Jo Bradshaw, Blythe Ansley and Alyssa Sutton.
The pair of juniors are Katie Reese and Beth Gerlach.
The trio of sophomores include Courtney Price, Olivia Lyons and Ivey Thrift.
The large freshman class includes Cassie Pickrell, Macey Smith, Brooke Wiley, Whitney Carani, Joy Dudley, Cady Gilmer and Blaire Moyer.
"We will be relying a lot on our senior class this season to lead us to the playoffs," Coach Parrish said. "It will take a total team effort from everyone for this team to reach our expected goals."
But it's the senior leadership of Anne Wills players will be looking for.
"Anne sets the stage for our other players to become big contributers," Coach Parrish said. "When a team keys on Anne and shuts her scoring down, then our other players step up and take things in their hands."
Wills should also put her name in Briarwood's record book this year.
"She is set to break the school record this season for most points scored in a career," Parrish added. "At the moment, she has 1,524 career points, only 84 points shy of the present school record held by Laine Bradshaw, who now plays college basketball with Oglethorpe University in Atlanta."
Coach Parrish is also looking for big things from other Lady Bucs.
"Ashley Pickard will be a big inside/outside threat for us. She has recently played well in practice for us, and if she can score in double figures, then that will take the pressure off Anne," Coach Parrish said. "Mallory Jo Bradshaw is another player that has the ability to take the pressure off of Anne. She has showed more confidence in her play this year."
He added, "Blythe Ansley is a tremendous athlete that has great jumping ability. She will help us a lot on defense. Alyssa Sutton is a 5'10" player that is coming to her own athletic ability. She is very aggressive and has been rebounding well. We definitely need a good, solid rebounder."
Other players that will be adding strength to the Lady Buc attack are Lynam, Reese, Pickrell, Smith and Gerlach.
Lynam took off her junior year from the basketball program, but in her return, she has showed a lot of progress. According to Coach Parrish, she is solid fundamentally and handles the ball really well. She adds dribble penetration to this year's squad.
"Katie Reese will be a probable starter for us as a junior. She has improved in all aspects of the game tremendously from last season," Coach Parrish said.
"Freshmen Cassie Pickrell and Macey Smith will add another powerful punch to our game plan. Cassie will be playing inside for us, and I have been very impressed with her aggressiveness. She is coming along real well. Macey has a good nack for basketball and is filled with a lot of raw talent."
And Gerlach brings good rebounding and shooting ability to the team.
"With her talent, I am not afraid to play seven to nine people and maintain a high level of aggressiveness and hustle," Coach Parrish said.
The Lady Bucs are hoping to continue their success in post-season play this season with the help of all these talented players. The squad finished last season with a 19-10 overall mark and an appearance in the state tournament. However, Crisp Academy defeated Briarwood in the first round of the state playoffs.
Over the past few years, the Lady Buccaneers probably have one of the most successful programs in the state. Within the last five years, Briarwood has appeared in the Final Four three years in a row and has played for the state championship two of those years.
"There is a lot of good competition between all of our players, and everyone has played real hard in practice," Coach Parrish said. "We are now putting all our plays together and getting our defense set for the upcoming tournament."