Getting to the point: Strong guard play key for area girls' teams at Best of Preps

photo Silverdale's Mariah Massengill is one of several strong point guards that will be in action this week at the Best of Preps tournament.

Among the Nos. 1 through 5 positions in basketball, the point guard is referred to as the one. And the play by the ones this week in the girls' portion of the Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament at Chattanooga State should go a long way in determining which team ends up No. 1.

Action begins Thursday morning at 10 with the first of four consecutive girls' games. Girls' and boys' games will be held alternately Friday and Saturday with girls' games first. The girls' championship is scheduled Saturday at 7 p.m.

From seniors to freshmen, from scorers to distributors, the point guards in the girls' tournament offer varying levels of skill and experience. But the common thread is their importance to their teams.

Among the established are seniors Mariah Massengill from Silverdale Baptist Academy and Jessica Caudle from East Hamilton.

Massengill leads the city in scoring. Through eight games her averages were 25.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.3 steals.

"If you have a good point guard, it gives a team hope," said Mariah's coach and father David Massengill. "At least you can get the ball up the floor and have a chance.

"If you have a great point guard, the rest of the team can feed off that. The point guard runs the show."

Caudle is averaging around 14 points per game, but closer to 19 during the Lady Hurricanes' current four-game winning streak. Not coincidently, their turnover average during the streak is about half what it was the previous six games.

"I've been lucky enough to coach her from the sixth grade up," East Hamilton coach Derek Morris said. "I know it's a cliche, but she really is a coach on the floor."

Morris said multiple times he's been about to call a timeout, only to see Caudle recognize the same negative situation and address her teammates without him having to. And she has physical gifts.

"She's super quick for her stature," Morris said. "She has great ability to dribble through traffic. She uses what she's been given."

The other senior point guards in this year's field include Chattanooga Christian's Mary Sabourin and Brainerd's Jasmine Woods. CCS coach Laura Cottrell describes Sabourin as a "floor general." Lady Panthers coach Carolyn Jackson expects a little of everything from Woods, not the least of which is taking care of the ball.

The only sophomore point guard in the field is Cleveland's Jenna Scoggins. She started every game at point last season as a freshman.

"She's a solid ball-handler and she allows other people to play their natural positions," Cleveland coach Mindy Kiser said. "She knows what we want to do and gets us in our sets."

Aizha Little, who directs things for Arts & Sciences, is one of three freshmen point guards who will be on display. Coach Lee Ziegler said she's a raw talent now but he forsees a bright future for her.

The others are Baylor's Kaleigh Clemons and GPS's Akia Harris. And with the Lady Red Raiders and Bruisers being in the Division II-AA East/Middle Region, they should be primed for some good head-to-head confrontations over the next four seasons.

"She's explosive and she's left-handed," Baylor coach John Gibson said of Clemons. "That's something that can really bother people. She's so quick with the ball. It's unbelievable how fast she can move. She finishes around the hole and defensively she makes plays, too. But she's still got a lot to learn. She's still got her moments."

Harris may not make anyone forget her predecessor, two-time Miss Basketball winner Chadarryl Clay, but GPS coach Susan Crownover is pleased with her understudy. It doesn't hurt that Harris has already been giving the Bruisers averages of 10.5 points, 4.6 assists and three steals per game.

"She sees the floor as well at her age as anybody I've ever seen," Crownover said. "She's really unselfish, too. She can score if she thinks she needs to make something happen, and she can handle it better than anybody.

"It looks like this may be a battle of the point guards."