Completing the turnaround at LaGrange

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Madison Barker is on pace for a memorable senior year, with plans to go out on top.
Photo courtesy LaGrange Athletics 

Madison Barker admits she has started off a little slow this season from a personal standpoint, but she knows it's still early in the year and she expects things to change in the near future.

"It's gone pretty good for me but I always seem to start off a season a little shaky," Barker said. "I think once we get to conference play, I'll have a lot more success."

Still, Barker has certainly played well in the first eight games, ranking second on the team in scoring (7.8 points per game) and leading team in rebounding (6.3 rebounds per outing).

The talented senior post player out of Florida has also done her part to be a leader for the Panthers, who are 6-2 and owners of a four-game win streak.

"Our coach puts a lot of emphasis on leadership from the seniors," Barker said. "There will be times in practice where he will pull us aside and tell us we need to get the team going a little bit more. We do what we can to help lead the team."

Barker only played eight games as a freshman but started 47 games the last two seasons. She averaged 9.2 points and 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore and 9.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per outing last year, emerging as one of the top post players in the USA South Athletic Conference.

She has no doubt come a long way since arriving on campus and has grown from her experience at the college level.

"In high school, I was a star on the team but was a little more reckless with how I played," Barker said. "I've learned to be more calm as a player in college. I'm making smarter decisions, turning the ball over less and shooting the ball at a higher percentage."

Barker actually ranked fourth in the conference in shooting percentage (52.6) last year and one of her goals for this year is to keep her free-throw percentage at 85 percent or better. At the moment, it sits at 81.5 percent (22-of-27).

Barker has other expectations as well, including helping the Panthers contend for a conference championship. It would be huge accomplishment for a program that, just two years ago, had a new head coach in Lee Buchanan and only eight players on the roster.

"It was kind of scary being in that situation because there were no expectations for us," Barker said. "We surprised a lot of people and won a lot of big games. Last year, we took another step forward and our goal is to win a championship this year."

The Panthers went 16-11 two seasons ago and finished 17-10 last year. Both years they made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

"We had a really good team my senior year of high school but we didn't win a championship," Barker said. "I want to win one this year, and being a senior, I'm going to leave it all out on the floor. The team is on the same page. We all want that championship and coach keeps telling us that we have the pieces to win a championship."

Lynx step up on defense

Rhodes held Covenant to 35 percent shooting and only gave up 13 points in the first half as it earned a 58-48 win over the Scots Saturday.

The Lynx forced 19 turnovers in the win, scoring 18 points off the miscues, and three players were in double figures, including Brennan Sullivan, who led the way with 16 points. Sullivan leads

Rhodes in scoring as he is putting up 14.2 points per game.

Rhodes has won its last three games and sits at 4-2 on the season. The Lynx has allowed 70 or more only once and teams are shooting just 39.4 percent from the field against it this year. Rhodes forces an average of 18.3 turnovers per outing, with JJ Weir leading the team in steals with 12.

Leonard on a roll for Tigers

April Leonard is off to a tremendous start to her senior season at East Texas Baptist. The talented guard has scored 20 or more three times this year and is averaging close to 20 points (19.0) per game.

Leopard certainly rose to the occasion Saturday as she scored 24 points in the Tigers' thrilling 78-77 American Southwest Conference win over Hardin-Simmons. The Tigers improved to 6-2 overall and are 1-0 in the conference.

Leonard, who averaged a little less than 11 points (10.7) per outing a year ago, has already led the Tigers in scoring four times. She has been effective from the outside, connecting on 14 3-pointers and has dished out 23 assists as well.

Leonard is also getting the job done on defense, racking up a team-best 16 steals for an East

Texas Baptist team that is in line for its first winning season since the 2012-13 campaign.

East Texas Baptist won only 10 games last year and nine the year before that but has thrived early on behind a balanced attack in which five players are scoring seven or more per game. The Tigers allow only 66 points per outing.

Cougars continue streak

Averett stretched its win streak to three games Dec. 2 with a 91-73 win over Johnson & Wales. It marked the third game in a row that the Cougars have had four players finish in double figures.

Charles Bryant paved the way with 16 points and six rebounds, marking the fourth consecutive game he has led the team in scoring, while Bradley Robinson scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds. Carter Jones poured in 11 points and pulled down four rebounds, pushing his career total to 517, which is good enough for seventh all-time. Trevor West added 10 points.

Seven players average at least five points per game for the Cougars, with Bryant leading the team in scoring (17.2). Robinson ranks second on the Cougars in scoring (13.3).

Trinity wins battle of San Antonio

Trinity faced off against Division I Incarnate Word Saturday and grinded out a 61-55 victory over the fellow San Antonio-based school.

The Tigers improved to 7-1 on the season with the win. Monica Holguin played a big role in the win as she scored 24 points, half coming on shots from beyond the arc. She also grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and tallied four steals.

The Tigers have played two Division I teams this season, losing at Houston Baptist by a 60-46 score on Dec. 2.

Holguin has led Trinity in scoring three times and ranks second on the team in scoring (11.7). Anecia Richardson is the top scoring threat for the Tigers (12.4) and she has also been a solid rebounder, grabbing an average of 8.5 rebounds per game.

The Tigers have been impressive on defense as well, holding opponents to 54.1 points per outing. Opponents have shot just 31.1 percent from the floor against them this season.

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 15 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for and wrote the book Perfect Run as No. 1 about the 2009 Division II men's basketball champions University of Findlay. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.