Basketball teams show improvement in 2019-20

By LAURENCE HILLIARD,

Sometimes, the win-loss record does not tell the full story of how well a team plays. But win totals do illustrate how much the French Camp Academy boys and girls basketball teams have improved the past two years.

For the 2017-18 season, the teams combined for one victory. The Panthers finished 1-13 and the Lady Panthers were winless in 18 games.

This year, they combined for 22 wins, recording 11 each.  And the improvement might continue during the 2020-21 season. The Panthers had only one senior on this year's roster, the Lady Panthers none.

The Lady Panthers made a big leap forward last year, finishing 8-13. Madison Klein led that team, averaging 21.7 points. She graduated (and moved on to play for Belhaven University), but the momentum continued this year, resulting in an 11-11 record.

“We had tremendous improvement,” said coach Polly LeVert. In particular, she mentioned improvement by junior Jordan Carter and the continued strong play inside by sophomore Jasmine Bonty.

The all-underclassmen Panthers went from 6-17 a year ago to 11-12 this year, led by a couple of dynamic juniors. C.J. Johnson, also quarterback on the football team, averaged 19 points and Darrion Smith hit for 15.1 per game.

“The biggest thing is that we had a lot more leadership,” said coach Robert Leathers. “I go back to the fact that the kids are playing together. They want to play together and they like each other. The chemistry has been good.”

Both teams qualified for the 1A playoffs as the fourth place team in Region 5-1A, but the season ended with losses to Leake County teams that were first in 7-1A.

The Panthers rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to within four before Leake County pulled award for a 62-49 victory. Leathers said it was his team's best half of the season. “They just played so hard.”