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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/MIKE ECKELS With new Lady Bulldogs coach Fess Thompson (standing, right) watching, Decatur's Sammie Skaggs (24, center) moves the ball around a Lady Pirate defender during the Decatur-Greenland JV scrimmage contest in the new gym at Lincoln High School July 19.

LINCOLN -- With basketball season more than three months away, the Decatur Lady Bulldogs and Gentry Lady Pioneers took a break from the off-season summer practice schedule to attend a two-day summer basketball scrimmage camp at Lincoln High School in Lincoln July 19-20.

The Lincoln Lady Wolves played hosted varsity, junior varsity and junior high teams from all over Arkansas, including teams from Mena, Waldron and Alma. The teams entered in the event played six 20-minute scrimmage games.

For new Lady Bulldogs head coach Fess Thompson, the Lincoln event was the first time to see his team in action. Of more importance to the Lady Bulldogs and their new coach, the scrimmages were a chance for both to get to know each other.

Thompson is no stranger to this sport, having played on both college and professional basketball teams worldwide. The 6-foot, 10-inch Thompson played basketball for the University of Illinois. He also was a member of international teams like the Wellington Saints in New Zealand.

High school sports fans may recognize Thompson, who officiated several Decatur, Gravette and Gentry volleyball, basketball and baseball contests.

Throughout the day, Thompson worked with his 10-member team, designing a few plays and testing them in real-time game situations. Prior to the game with Mena at the old gym at Lincoln Middle School, Thompson took his girls to a shaded area beside the building. There he devised a new play named "Butter." After a series of run-throughs, the play was ready for execution.

With the "Butter" play, as well as a play designed by junior Abby Tilley a few weeks earlier, the Lady Bulldogs grabbed the early lead and held on through most of the contest. However, fatigue from the 90-plus degree heat began to wear on the team and the contest ended with Mena claiming an eight-point victory.

During the early goings of both the Decatur-Gentry and Decatur-Alma games, the Lady Bulldogs held the lead for 12 of the 20 minutes of the contest, but fatigue set in and the girls lost both games.

On the Gentry side, the Lady Pioneers won five of their six games, losing to only the host Lincoln Lady Wolves.

After losing his four key players to graduation in May, Lady Pioneer head coach Toby Tevebaugh looked to give his up-and-coming seniors a chance to gain pre-season experience during the Lincoln scrimmages.

Gentry came to Lincoln with three teams -- varsity, junior varsity and junior high. For the three Lady Pioneer teams, the chance to gain experience in a game setting allows every girl playing time.

Day two for the Lady Bulldogs yielded their first victory under Thompson. Using the new "Butter" play, along with several others devised before the day's contests began, the Lady Bulldogs' execution was nearly perfect. But the single most effective thing that worked in Decatur's favor was the shooting.

All summer, the entire Lady Bulldogs team, under Tajhe Turner, worked on its shooting. Refined by Thompson, the girls executed their shooting with precision timing, contributing to the win.

By the end of the two-day events, the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Pioneers both emerged much stronger teams, refining their strengths and correcting their weaknesses.

Day 1 results:

Mena 23, Decatur 15

Gentry 29, Lincoln 24

Gentry 27, Decatur 14

Gentry 18, Alma 13

Gentry 25, Lincoln 35

Lincoln 29, Decatur 26

Alma 33, Decatur 18

Mena 35, Gentry 32

Day 2 results:

Lincoln 48, Decatur 14

Decatur 26, Lincoln JV 15

Gentry JV 27, Decatur 20

Lincoln JV 20, Decatur 15

Sports on 07/25/2018

Print Headline: Lady Bulldogs, Lady Pioneers gain valuable experience during Lincoln basketball tournament

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