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Girls basketball: Back for more: Seven returners, key move-in have Lady Marauders optimistic
Last year, in its first season under head coach Fred Jones, Marcus' girls basketball team hit its stride in the second half of district play and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before falling against eventual state champion Duncanville - a game they were within seven points of the lead late in the third quarter.
In 2012-13, with 7-of-8 key contributors from last year back in the fold, the Lady Marauders are eyeing not only another playoff appearance, but have hopes of claiming a district title and making an even deeper postseason run.
Additionally, Marcus has picked up another key cog in move-in Alex Lapeyrolerie, who transferred from the Houston area and signed Wednesday to play in college at New Mexico.
"We're pretty excited," Jones said. "With our experience, we have high expectations. We think we can build off the second half of last year and make a run."
The Lady Marauders also beefed up their schedule in an effort to prepare for district, including facing three of the top 10 preseason teams in the state and five of the top 20.
Thus far, Marcus defeated Colleyville Heritage, lost to Lubbock Coronado by two points and came up short against Duncanville. The Lady Marauders also have non-district contests scheduled against The Colony, Mansfield Timberview, Cedar Hill and Plano West.
The loss against Coronado came in the semifinals of the Frisco ISD Tip-Off Classic, where the Lady Marauders finished third.
"We're playing our first eight games on the road," Jones said. "Against Coronado, we lost by two points after they hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds left. We also lost to Duncanville by 14 but that was a 7-point game in the fourth quarter."
Marcus also won a game over Mesquite Poteet, 79-19, in Frisco.
"We're a guard-oriented team and we're looking to push it a lot more," Jones said. "We still want to protect the paint and play defense, that's our trademark. But we're looking to push it a whole lot more with the quickness we have. Our defense can spark our offense and will be an advantage for us. So far, we're ahead of schedule. We scored 80 against Poteet, which was more than anything we did last year. We were averaging 41 points per game last year and right now we're at about 54."
Not only can Marcus' guards create offense with turnovers, they can increase the tempo more efficiently off the glass.
"We don't have to outlet or anything," Jones said. "Our girls can get the rebound and start the break on their own. I don't think scoring is going to be an issue for us."
Jones doesn't anticipate the lack of size hurting Marcus on the defensive end, either.
"[The system] actually fits the height and size of our team," he said. "We're doing a lot of trapping and are hounding the posts when they get the ball inside. We don't have a lot of big posts, but we'll be sending multiple people at them and ambushing them. It's a lot like what you saw from our boys team a couple years ago."
Key returners for Marcus include guards Ashley James (first team all-district last year), Sierra Bone (second team), Vanessa Jones (Co-Defensive Player of the Year) and Morgan Easley (second team); and posts Jenna Davis, Taylor Roof and Jessie O'Malley.
Thus far, Jones and Easley have led in scoring, while Bone and James have also contributed offensively. O'Malley has stepped up as a vocal leader with Roof providing quality defense in the post.
Davis, meanwhile, has been described by Jones as Marcus' most improved player. Alex Legg gives the Lady Marauders yet another athlete as she has made the jump from junior varsity.
Lapeyrolerie provides even more versatility.
"She's still getting acclimated," Jones said. "But she is a great athlete. So far, she's having a little trouble scoring but a lot of that is getting used to the new system. She has the ability to play the wing and can also play guard and she is really noted for her defensive ability."
With the exception of Lapeyrolerie, Marcus is benefitting from a familiarity within its roster.
"Our other real strength is our chemistry," he said. "A lot of the girls have been on some of the same teams since they were in elementary school. It's really helped out a lot and has made the transition for Alex much easier. We have great chemistry."
Early challenges for Marcus have come in the paint.
"For us to gel and take the next step, we have to be able to rebound," Jones said. "Boxing out is going to be key and we can't give up extra shots. That will allow the opponent to score more and will also slow us down."
Marcus continues its non-district schedule at home Monday against The Colony before going on the road to Tuesday against Plano West. The Lady Marauders also faced Timberview Friday (results not available as of press time), who are led by former Marcus head coach Kitt Kyle.
"That should be fun," Jones said. "It will be the first time she's coached against Marcus since she left."