Lady Marlins look to defend county title in basketball

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

For the first time in the history of the school's girls basketball program, the Destin Middle School Lady Marlins won the Okaloosa County Middle School Girl's Basketball Championship last year with a 49-28 win over the Davidson Panthers.

Can they repeat?

"We're the champions until somebody knocks us off," said fourth-year Coach Susie Pierce.

"That's our goal every day," she said, to shoot for that title.

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Susie Pierce, in her fourth year at the helm of the Lady Marlins, gives instruction to the team at a recent practice at Destin Middle School.

However, having lost three starters from last year — Jessica Pierce, Anna Kimball and Ava Smith — the Lady Marlins have a long road ahead.

The threesome accounted for 90 percent of the team's points, Pierce said.

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"So we have two options: score more points or play better defense. We are going to try and do both of those," Pierce said.

Helping to accomplish those options will be seventh-graders Carson Fayard and Anna Belle Shackelford. Both got starts as sixth-graders and will be big in the backcourt this season.

Carson Fayard, a seventh-grader, works through a passing drill during a recent practice.

"Carson will be our biggest scorer," said Pierce, who noted that she averaged 10.5 points per game last year.

"Hopefully, she'll be adding to that. She has increased her range. She worked really hard this summer," Pierce said.  

Another starter back from last year is Riley Palmer.

"Riley got some starts last year, so she'll step in and play a huge roll this year," Pierce said. 

Riley Palmer pushes the ball down the court during drills at a recent practice at Destin Middle School.

"We're going to be guard-oriented. So we will press a lot as usual ... that's kind of our thing," she said.

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Pierce said depth will be a weakness.

"We don't have a lot of depth with experience, so we will probably play more people this year because there's not a big difference between our fourth best and our ninth. So we'll have more people running in and out," she said.

But overall, Pierce said she is pleased with what she is seeing on the court.

Destin Coach Susie Pierce works through a loose ball drill with the team during a recent practice at Destin Middle School.

"They are looking good," she said.

"I'm looking forward to them getting chemistry as a team. Right now we have a lot of individuals. So our job right now is to get them to come together."

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The Lady Marlins' first two games are non-conference matches. On Dec. 8, they will host the Meigs Wildcats at 5 p.m.

Who's the team to beat this year?

"Shoal River, Ruckel, Davidson, Pryor, Bruner ... everybody," Pierce said.