Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Lady Rattlers face tough test


November 27, 2019

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari senior guard Ashley Shipley takes aim during a shooting drill in the first day of official basketball practice last week. The Lady Rattlers' first game is at Texico on Dec. 3, with their first home game on Dec. 17 against East Mountain.

No creampuffs to start the season for the Lady Rattlers.

The Tucumcari girls basketball team faces a tough first test of the season at perennial Class 2A power Texico on Dec. 3 while their all-state guard is still recovering from a lingering illness and the squad is breaking in new varsity players.

The Lady Rattlers' first home game at the Snake Pit won't be until Dec. 17, when they host East Mountain.

The Lady Rattlers return most of a core that finished 22-5 last season, won a district title and advanced to the Class 3A quarterfinals. But the leader of that squad, all-state point guard Ashley Shipley, now a senior, contracted pneumonia about a month ago and has been slowly recovering.

Tucumcari coach Gary Hittson said he's been monitoring Shipley closely in practice and will give her an occasional breather on the bench if the situation warrants it.

Shipley led the team last year in points per game (16.4), rebounds (5.7), assists (5.6), steals (4.4), field-goal shooting (56%) and 3-point shooting (38%). She will be playing for Texas A&M-Commerce next season.

Other returning full-time players are senior center Jasmine Jones (10.4 points, 5.3 rebounds per game) and senior forward Aaliyah Brown (3.5 points, 4.6 rebounds per game). Sophomore guard-forward Reece Goldstone, who averaged 2.6 points per game last year as a part-timer, will move into a full-time spot.

Hittson said freshman Alexus Lafferty probably would be playing a lot of varsity ball, along with freshman Juli Rivera and senior Chantal Gardea.

Hittson said his Lady Rattlers will continue to run-and-gun and shoot 3-pointers because they have the personnel to do so. He said he would continue to run the deceptively complex read-and-react offense, along with a few older set plays.

When asked about his team's strengths in what will be his 17th season on the Rattler sidelines, Hittson cited his seniors.

"One of our strengths is probably going to be our senior leadership," he said. "They've been here in the program since they were in eighth grade. It's their fifth year, and they know what's what."

As for weaknesses, it's a lack of size and especially depth. Hittson said several upperclassmen and junior-varsity players decided to not go out for basketball this season because of employment or other reasons.

"We have to be careful on defense," he said. "If we pick up a bunch of early fouls, we're going to be in trouble."

In District 4-3A, Hittson expects another stern test from Tularosa, which eliminated Tucumcari from the Class 3A tournament last season, and an improved Dexter team.


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