LADY TIGERS KNOW A RUN AND GUN STYLE BRINGS WEAR AND TEAR
By Todd Vinyard
In the Northeast Lady Tiger galaxy there are plenty of stars.
The Lady Tigers give new meaning to the word depth with 10 players that can play. And play well considering the Lady Tigers were tied for the North Division lead last week with a 7-1 division record, and are 13-6 on the year.
Northeast head coach Ricky Ford’s style of up tempo pressure basketball, which has brought a 1987 National Championship and over 300 wins since 1981, demands a large stock of players.
“A lot of times they will ask, ‘Coach can I get a break?’, which is what we want them to do,” Ford said. “We don’t want them to stay out there while they are tired and hurt us. If I have to take them out they don’t like it, and I don’t like it. I would rather a player ask for a break, because then I know they are interested in us doing well instead of just staying out there.”
The Lady Tiger bench looks like a game of musical chairs most of the time. Nine players have played in each of Northeast’s 19 contests this season.
Besides juggling lineups, you might think Ford would have a hard time juggling bruised egos due to lack of overall playing time. But instead of “PT” these Lady Tigers seem concerned with “W’s”, as in wins.
“I care about winning, and that is all I care about,” Northeast guard Mandy Griffin said. “I wouldn’t care if I went in played three minutes and came out as long as we win.”
Lady Tiger Vicki Wyatt, who is second on the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game, says staying fresh can be a real advantage.
“Most teams cannot play as many people as we can so it helps us down the stretch in games,” Wyatt said.
Even though there are plenty of stars in the sky you can always see the Big Dipper. That big star number wise for Northeast is sophomore Melissa Spears. The starting forward leads the team in scoring (20.5 p.p.g.), rebounding (8.8 r.p.g.), and steals (2.2 p.p.g.).
Once you get past Spears’ stats and go inside the numbers it becomes even clearer just how balanced the Lady Tigers are.
Leading 3-point shooter – Wyatt with 30.
Leading in field goal percentage – Summer Stroup at 66 percent.
Leading in assists – Carrie Whitehead at 3.4 per game followed by Griffin with 3.1 per game.
Different names, all part of a philosophy to wear down opponents on offense and defense.
“We put so much pressure on people to try and make them work harder than they would normally work and try to wear them down,” Ford said. “They then get tired and make turnovers and miss shots. When you get tired, shooting is one of the first things to go.”
Good pressure defense doesn’t just happen.
“We work on defense a lot,” Lady Tiger Melody Price said. “Coach Ford stresses it. If you play good defense and hustle that is what he wants.”
Hustle and defense will be a couple of things the Lady Tigers need now since four of their last five games are on the road.
“We are taking these things one game at a time,” Ford said. “We are not looking ahead, we’re not looking back. Hopefully, we can come together as a team and meet this challenge.”
If it boils down to teamwork the Lady Tigers have to like their chances.