Ball-handling skills major factor for scrappy ECMS girls squad

Coach Kristan Wasdin tries to settle her ECMS girls down as they protected a slim fourth-period lead.

Kristan Wasdin didn’t hesitate when asked the keys to the 6-0 start posted by her Escambia County Middle School Lady Eagles this season.

“We’re faster than most of the other schools, and we have great ball-handlers,” the first-year ECMS coach said prior to the team’s seventh win, a 27-24 decision over Marshall Middle School on November 16. “Also, our defense has been able to shut down the teams we’ve played against.”

That aggressive defensive effort has been team-wide, but Wasdin cited point guard Jayla Adams, an eighth-grader, and wing player C’Anna Betts, the only seventh-grader in the starting five, as the defensive leaders.

“C’Anna is phenomenal,” the ECMS coach said. “She’s our tallest player and our leader on both ends of the court. She and Jayla can knock that ball loose and get to the loose ball.”

The other starters are Maykayla Lyons, Zakkiyah Ford and TyQueria Evans.

“We’ve got some talent,” smiled Wasdin, who inherited a team that won just one game last year. “I didn’t know just what to expect at first, but we’re undefeated, so now I know what to expect.”

In fact, she added, that’s all she expects now.

“I told my husband that if we didn’t win all the games, when we didn’t win I wouldn’t show up for work the next day,” she laughed. “I haven’t missed any days yet.”

Ironically, the team’s only shortcoming seems to be an abundance of the aggressiveness that has been one of its strengths. The ECMS girls raced from one end of the court to the other against Marshall, most of the time throwing the ball toward the goal without taking time to set up the best shot.

ECMS had come from behind to beat Marshall 17-9 the week before, marking the biggest challenge the Lady Eagles had faced to that point. It was more of the same in the November 16 game, as they and the Lady Mustangs swapped the lead several times before the Escambia girls took it for good with less than 30 seconds to play.

Twice during the contest — when the team fell behind early in the game and again when Marshall mounted a late comeback — Wasdin had to call timeout to tell the Lady Eagles to “slow it down a little bit.”

Betts wound up with 9 points, despite being double-teamed throughout the game. Adams scored 11 points to lead the team to the win, while Lyons chipped in with 6 and Ford got 1.