Gary 21st Century Cougars
Last season: 3-16, lost in Class A Washington Twp. Sectional to Morgan Twp.
Inside the Cougars
Leading returning scorer: Ophelia Palmer, 12 ppg
Leading returning rebounder: Tiara Steele, 6.5 rpg
Star power: Ophelia Palmer, So., F. She brings a high IQ to the court and a willingness to be a good teammate. The Cougars will look to her for leadership even though she is just a sophomore.
Newcomer to watch: Octavia Steele, Fr., G. Will serve as the starting point guard for the Cougars. At 5-feet-7, Steele is tall for her position and has good court vision and a willingness to get her teammates involved in the offense.
Continuing to build a program
In their first season with a full schedule last year, the Cougars won three games and were competitive in two single-digit losses to Lew Wallace. Head coach Marcus Ford helped coach the team last season, and has noticed an improvement in the fundamentals. He will also instill a willingness to compete and play hard. "I have a great set of leaders," he said. "Ophelia Palmer is of course a leader, but along with her I've got two seniors who are also leaders, Demonique Wilder and Ronika Meekins. Ronika Meekins might be my best finisher." A total of 15 players are on the varsity team this season, so keeping girls fresh will never be a problem. "That's going to be good," Ford said. "The depth will definitely help us. At the same time, I'm going to have to fit in everybody." Last year was 21st Century's first season competing in the postseason, so all the players now have that experience under their belts. The Cougars will host Gavit on Nov. 10, so they'll be tested very early against a talented program. Powerhouse West Side also travels to 21st Century on Nov. 29. -- Matt Douthett