HERALD Photo/Tony Claxton â€” Mackenzie Stone (12) and her 3-point shooting has been instrumental to the Big Spring Lady Steersâ€™ success this season.
Big Spring guards Valerie Ross and Mackenzie Stone live behind the 3-point line.
The two await the moment defenses present an opportunity and leave one of them open, and once Ross and Stone get started, itâ€™s hard to stop them.
â€śWhen me and Mackenzie are in, we just click,â€ť Ross said. â€śItâ€™s not competition, but when she makes one, I want to make one. It just helps us out.â€ť
Ross and Stone are giving the Big Spring Lady Steers something they really havenâ€™t had the past few years â€” perimeter shooting. Considering the Lady Steersâ€™ strength this season has been the post play of Cerbi Ritchey and Diamond Mayes and teams are picking up on that, Ross and Stoneâ€™s shooting adds to Big Springâ€™s offensive arsenal.
Head coach Mike Warren hopes it makes a difference as the Lady Steers (15-4, 0-1 in district play) continue to dive into District 5-3A play when they take on Brownwood (15-7, 1-0) at 6 p.m. today in Brownwood.
Ross and Stone force opponents to pick their poison â€” double-team the post players and leave the two guards open or focus on Ross and Stone and leave the post players open.
Ross has always been potent from the 3-point line, but Stone showed why she makes Big Spring dangerous from the beginning of the season. Stone hit 10 3-pointers in her first three games as a Lady Steer and Ross is usually on par or better.
Warren said zone defenses hurt the Lady Steers last year because they didnâ€™t have multiple players who could shoot mid to long range shots in case the post players were shut down.
This year, defenses have to take Ross and Stone into account, especially since the two have no qualms about letting shots fly.
â€śTheyâ€™re looking for the 3,â€ťWarren said. â€śThey have the green light and the other girls know it. Even when we throw the ball in to Cerbi, if she doesnâ€™t have anything, she can kick it out to them and know that they will hit those shots.â€ť
Itâ€™s good Big Spring has this option with Brownwood on tap tonight. The Lady Lions run a 2-3 zone defense with a tall post player in the middle. That could limit what Ritchey and Mayes are able to do in the paint, leaving opportunities for Ross and Stone to hit shots.
While the two guardsâ€™ shooting this season stands out, itâ€™s not just them who have the ability to make buckets from beyond the arc. Warren said Bridgette Tuitt, Logan Yarbar and even Ritchey, among others, can bust zone defenses with their shooting.
Stone is the new face on the team. The junior followed her mother, assistant coach Gayla Paige, to Big Spring as a transfer from Coahoma and itâ€™s worked in the Lady Steersâ€™ favor. Paige was an assistant at Coahoma this time last season.
Warren said the players enjoy playing for Paige and Ross said the coach has helped the players in many facets of the game, like perimeter shooting and post play.
Stone admitted she was a bit nervous about joining a new team at first, but said sheâ€™s fit in nicely with her new teammates this season.
â€śI think Iâ€™m a little bit more confident because Iâ€™m older,â€ť Stone said. â€śAt first, I was a little bit intimidated coming over here. I knew all the girls from over here. I knew they were good and I would have to definitely step up my game. I think Iâ€™ve improved a lot.â€ť
Itâ€™s not rare to see Stone and Ross in practice together, either, one passing the ball to the other to take shots. Ross said Stone gels so well with the team, it feels like she has been in Big Spring forever.
Paige has the same sentiment.
â€śWe havenâ€™t missed a beat,â€ť she said. â€śShe hasnâ€™t had one minute of wishing she hadnâ€™t come. Thatâ€™s what I do this for, is my daughter.â€ť
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