Beekman Lady Tigers Preview
After making some major inroads, the Beekman Lady Tigers return all five starters from last year's 16-14 team.
It hasn't always been easy, but years of growing pains began to produce some tangible results last season.
"We finally finished fourth (out of eight teams) in district, we had a winning season, we made the playoffs and we built up some confidence," Beekman coach Caroline Oliphant said. "Now we get to roll into 2A."
Following reclassification, the Lady Tigers were moved from District 2-1A to District 2-2A.
While the new conference is certain to bring a higher level of competition, Oliphant doesn't expect the Lady Tigers to be overmatched game in and game out.
"Our district is going to be stronger, don't get me wrong, but I don't expect us to come out on the bottom," Oliphant said. "I feel like we have a shot — a shot — to finish in the same spot in district."
At least the Lady Tigers are making the move with a veteran team, which has been together since middle school.
"We have some experience," Oliphant said. "We are finally to where we're not going to be manhandled by the average teams. They worked out with coach (Rob) Perry in the weight room and got stronger over the summer. We're older now. We're finally to the point where we're not young."
Not as young, anyway. The Lady Tigers start three juniors and two sophomores, but remain senior-less.
Sophomore Gracie Wooden, a first-team All-District 2-1A selection last season, will run the offense. Junior guard Kateland Fulmer was a second-team All-District honoree in 2016-17.
Joining Wooden and Fulmer in the starting five are junior guard Hannah Irby, sophomore guard Jesci Lord and junior post Kasadee Armfield.
Also back are freshman guards Tanner Spigner and Gracie Gilbreath and sophomore forward Alexis Crumley.
Five eighth-graders will suit up with the varsity, including guard/forwards Chloe Jenkins, Aberyal Goyne and Cadence Gray, guard Laila Williams and forward Karli Fulmer.
One of the most improved areas of the Lady Tigers' game last season was free throw shooting.
"Our free throws got better last year, but they still need to get better," Oliphant said. "The key to girls basketball is making layups and free throws. You don't have as many outside shooters in girls basketball as you do with the boys, although there are some."
Oliphant says the Lady Tigers are ready to move beyond the basics.
"We're still keying in on layups and free throws, but we're about to turn it up a notch on defense," Oliphant said. "We worked all summer and spring on defense."
Oliphant was especially pleased with the Lady Tigers' commitment during the off-season.
"Everybody had to make 18 weight lifting sessions this summer —this is the first time I have put a number on it — or you had to make it up," Oliphant said. "Every one of them made it happen."
Getting the entire team together for preseason practice hasn't been as easy, although the absences were excused.
"We have dealt with a couple of sicknesses and an unidentifiable foot injury (to Irby)," Oliphant said. "We haven't been able to get in as much practice as we should have, and we have really been practicing for only two weeks."
Nevertheless, Oliphant was encouraged by what she saw in Monday's preseason scrimmage against Oak Grove.
"For October 23rd, I thought we looked pretty good," Oliphant said. "We're miles ahead of where we have been."
Oliphant says the Lady Tigers' greatest asset is their work ethic.
"They have worked," Oliphant said. "We may be out-athleted in some games, but we're not going to be out-worked. They're not going to let that happen. After the scrimmage, I had people coming up to me and telling me how hard they worked, and it's not the first time that has happened. Working hard is something they take pride in. I don't know if it's because they're tired of hearing me gripe, or what."
Beekman will play its first regular season game at home vs. Ouachita Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 14.