The Lithia Springs girls basketball team enters the 2014-15 season with a lot of promise and a defensive mindset. Head coach David Mills says the team feeds off defense, which is helped out by good team speed and a pushing pace.
“They really like defending and that is backwards. Most teams want to shoot,” Mills said.
The Lady Lions lost only four players from the 2013-14 season and the group is led by a veteran unit. Junior Arit Asanga leads the charge at point guard.
“She pushes the pace and sets up the tempo,” Mills said. “She is the defensive catalyst and sets the tone with her aggression.”
Standing out on the varsity squad this season and returning along with Asanga are Kiana Johnson, Chyon Leslie, T’era Fullove, Saundra Manyitabot, Leah Dean and Auna McCalla.
Johnson is a very aggressive wing attacker and scorer.
“We are trying to get her to be more aggressive,” Mills said. “We need her to me more selfish. She does not mind passing the ball but we need her to shoot when the opportunity presents itself.”
Leslie brings speed to a position, the post, that normally does not see a lot of speed.
“She has potential to be a leader. She is a solid rock at the position and we have high expectations,” Mills said.
Fullove earned a captain role this year. She is a guard that can play inside and outside, and she has the range to hit the three. She can also occupy the post from time to time.
“She is a big kid that can handle the ball,” Mills said. “She is strong enough in the box and weapons like her do not come around very often.”
Manyitabot brings versatility to the team and has developed more over the summer at guard. Dean is a 6-foot post player that earned a spot in the first game against South Cobb, which was played on Tuesday. McCalla will push people for a starting job at guard.
The team is guard heavy and Mills does not expect to have a firm starting lineup all season long.
Two new players are also expected to contribute on the varsity level. Madison Robinson saw action in the scrimmage against Langston Hughes. She hit a couple of jumpers and is already building trust with the coaches. Ayanna Dinkins is also moving up from JV to varsity, though she could still see time at both. Mills said she is learning the ropes but is a natural scorer.
The Lady Lions will be competing in what could be a very open race in Region 5-AAAAA. They will once again see New Manchester in the region, while also welcoming Alexander and Chapel Hill.
“It could be a 10 team race until the end,” Mills said. “I don’t know of any clear cut favorite. Hiram went undefeated last year in the region but I see games being decided late in the fourth quarter.”
Lithia played Langston in a scrimmage game last weekend. They showed a lot of improvement against a 6A school that they lost to by 40-plus points last season. While the score was much closer, the Lady Lions struggled to shoot the ball, going 2-of-19 from 3-point range.
“We played a pretty good opponent and competed for pretty much all four quarters,” Mills said. “We played everyone and I was able to get some info and find out what we need to work on.”
As the season kicks off, Mills wants the group to get better every day.
“It is a trust process and we have to let the girls do the job and at the end of the season, hopefully we will be at our best and have a chance of making the state tourney. These girls get along and are great students. We are lucky to have them in the program.”