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New Albany continues to add to its early season accolades, as the Lady Bulldogs were named among the top teams in the nation in USA Today’s Top 25 poll.
Ranking the top boys and girls teams across the nation, the first poll is based on last year’s season, in which the Lady ‘Dawgs finished 32-1 and runner-up in 4A. With the entire team returning from last year, New Albany earned the number 22 spot in the poll.
“This is the highest honor we can receive besides winning the state championship; being named among the elite in the nation,” NAHS head coach John Stroud said. “To be named in the top 25 with over 30,000 schools in the nation is a big honor.”
The Lady ‘Dawgs are currently 6-0 on the season with signature wins over Ripley and Briarcrest and will participate in an elite national tournament, the Fort Smith, Ark., Classic, Dec. 16-18.
“This gives us something to build on and to strive for, and hopefully it will give the girls a reason to play harder,” Stroud said. “It’s just a huge honor, and we’re excited.”
New Albany is currently the top ranked team in the state in all classifications according the Clarion Ledger Preseason Poll that was released earlier this month. Weekly polls should begin to be released by the Clarion Ledger next month. NAHS is also the top ranked 4A team.
According to Stroud, the preseason polls are based on last year’s performance, last year’s records, and returning players.
“We were ranked number one for four straight weeks in last year’s Clarion Ledger Polls and it is wonderful for us to receive these preseason honors.”
The Lady Bulldogs have eight seniors on the team and are returning all their starters from last season. The starting line up includes: sophomore 5’11” forward Jazmine Spears; senior 6’1” center Micha Washington; 5’6” forward Nyambi Penson; senior 5’6” guard Kebrina Lucas; and senior 5’4” guard Porche White. Spears and Washington were named to the 2010 All State Tournament Team.
Spears was selected to the Clarion Ledger’s Dandy Dozen Team. This team includes the top twelve players from the state and Spears was the only sophomore in the state chosen for the honor. This recognition is based on newspaper opinion, stats, college coaches, and summer play.
“This is quite an honor for Jazmine and we are very proud of her,” Stroud said. The only other player from the northeast Mississippi area to be selected to the Dandy Dozen is New Site Senior Krystal Jackson.
Stroud says he does not necessarily see another undefeated season going into the state tournament like last year.
“Our team needs to be challenged during regular season play,” he said. “Our schedule is more difficult this year so that we can be more prepared for post season play.”
New Albany will take on Ingomar this week before opening division play at Pontotoc next Tuesday, Dec. 7 and hosting Tishomingo County next Friday, Dec. 10.