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Laney guards providing balance to inside game

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Back up Khadijiah Cave and Simone Smith went, pulling down rebounds over defenders. One offensive board, then two, three and four and then more – all on one possession.

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Aliyah Collier (left) waits to run through drills during Thursday's practice.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Aliyah Collier (left) waits to run through drills during Thursday's practice.

TEAM PAGE: Laney Wildcats

As the Laney girls basketball team gets wins – like it did during the rebound spree against Josey this past Saturday – it’s easy for the eyes to lock in on the two post players who are averaging double-doubles.

The Baylor-bound Cave scores a team-high 23.4 points;
Smith gets a Laney-best 14.2 rebounds every game.

But the Lady Wildcats have also seen playmakers emerge at the guard spots, positions coach Otis Smart knows will be important if Laney is to return to the Class AA state semifinals and challenge for a championship.

So far, Laney has seen Destiny Brewton, Aliyah Collier and Gemiya Bowman step forward as contributors to complement the inside dominance.

A year ago, Brewton played for Screven County. But
this winter, she’s taken over as one of the leading guards.

“I was like, ‘These girls are too good,’ ” Brewton remembers thinking when she played against the Lady Wildcats. “I had to practice hard and find a role. Now I’m playing hard and we’re trying to win state.”

After each of the past two seasons, Laney had to move on without high-scoring stars Mykala Jones and then DeKoya Mack, with Mack an especially deadly 3-point shooter.

Smart wasn’t sure how successful his team would be from 3 or away from the basket this year, but the guards have helped stretch out the defense, and Brewton does average nearly 10 assists a game. She’s more comfortable as the season has grown older.

Though Laney still relies on the veteran presence in the paint, the guards have had their moments. Against Aiken, Collier hit a late 3-pointer to ensure her team remained undefeated.

With the guards’ help, Laney has encountered few struggles this season. In its 22-0 start, 19 games have been won by at least 22 points. And out of the past 11 games, nine were won by 29 points or more.

“Compared to last year, this year’s team looks more hungry,” Smart said. “They don’t care who gets the job done – I’m looking for them to make a run just like the other teams.”


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