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Lady Tigers ready to arrive

The 2011-2012 season is the one fans of the Demopolis Lady Tiger basketball team have been anticipating for years. Since this crop of seniors first made its way onto campus, those in and around the program have had tremendous expectations for what the group could ultimately accomplish.

With the group’s final campaign officially underway, the time to achieve is now for the Class of 2012.

“They’re carrying a lot of the load this year,” Demopolis head coach Tony Pittman said of the senior class. “They are going to be expected to carry the load in every aspect of the game.”

The quintet of seniors at the core of the team and its expectations is Megan Smith, Demekia Marshall, Shadijiah Moore, Breanna Jones and Tee Perkins.

“These girls have been playing together since seventh and eighth grade,” Pittman said of the group, which function as well off the court as it does on.

Driving many of the high expectations for the Lady Tigers is the low post tandem of Moore and Jones, a pair of six-footers that has pulled collegiate offers from Bethune-Cookman and Alabama State as well as interest from UWA and Jacksonville State.

“We’re just trying to prepare them for all situations,” Pittman said of his frontcourt forces. “We know there are times they are going to see double teams.”

While the Lady Tigers figure to be strong on the inside, they have almost as much promise everywhere else on the floor.

Smith returns to point guard duties, relying on her handles, vision and considerable experience to bring stability to the spot.

She will share the duties with junior point guard Jonniece Collins, a markedly different player with a quick first step and impressive speed.

The backcourt will also see considerable contributions from sharpshooter Marshall and Catrina Benison.

“I’m very pleased with the work of Collins and Benison,” Pittman said. “They played very important roles last year and their confidence is up.”

The forward positions will see a variety of players log minutes, with Perkins and Martina Smith drawing primary duties as inside-out threats. Pittman will likely also run Moore at the power forward spot with frequency and even the small forward position on occasion.

“We’re going to be very versatile in how we play these girls this year,” Pittman said of his team, which lost no players from the squad that made the 2010-2011 sub-regional round. “I like that aspect that we are able to play different teams.”

The Lady Tigers’ athleticism, versatility and years of experience have the expectations from program outsiders and insiders higher than ever. Despite a tough region that still includes perennial power Selma and a Wilcox-Central team that always proves athletic, Pittman is ready for his team to show itself as the class of Class 5A, Area 5.

“The pressure to perform, the pressure to do great things, we’re feeling it right now. We know the pressure that is there,” Pittman said. “We’re not going to surprise anybody this year. We just want to go out and focus on getting it done one game at a time.”