LEVELLAND — Following one of the program's most successful season's a year ago, the South Plains College women's basketball team will begin a new era when they open the season on the road Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College under first-year head coach Ara Baten, who comes to Levelland after 13 seasons heading up the Odessa College women's basketball program.
The Lady Texans, who earned a No. 3 ranking in the NJCAA women's basketball preseason poll and are picked to win the WJCAC, went 32-1 a year ago en route to the WJCAC and Region V titles, earning a No. 2 seed to the NJCAA Women's Basketball National Tournament before it was eventually canceled due to Covid-19. South Plains will return three players from last season's squad as Baten looks to continue the program's success in what is sure to be an unprecedented year.
"We've got a couple of returning players who were here last year," Baten said. "Grace Hunter, Ka'Lia Smith, and Ashala Moseberry, and we've brought some kids over with us from Odessa. Jordan Brown who started for us last year, Dyana Offutt has been with us a couple of years, and Jemilynn Mahoney who played for us last year. We have a bunch of talented freshmen and a nice mix of kids from different parts of the world and different parts of the country. I think once they get playing and get it figured out it's going to be good."
Hunter will play a key role for the Lady Texans this season after appearing in all 33 games for South Plains as a freshman. The 5-foot-9 guard from New Zealand averaged 5.7 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.1 rebounds per game a year ago, shooting 40.1 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from the 3-point line. Hunter netted double figures five times last season including a season-best 13 points against Midland College on March 6.
A 6-foot-1 sophomore from Amarillo, Smith will anchor the Lady Texans inside and be a key contributor on both ends of the floor. Smith averaged 9.8 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game as a freshman, shooting 60.2 percent from the field over 33 games. Smith scored in double figures 19 times last season including a career-high 24 points against Lamar Community College on Nov. 7.
Moseberry's freshman stint was cut short after suffering a torn ACL last season, appearing in 24 games for the Lady Texans. Prior to the injury, Moseberry averaged 7.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, shooting 51.2 percent from the field and including a 32.1 percent clip from distance. Moseberry tallied double figures eight times last season, including a season-high 18 points on Nov. 15 in the Lady Texans' 77-35 win over Salt Lake Community College.
Brown was a key contributor for the Lady Wranglers as a freshman, appearing in 30 games while averaging 4.9 points and 3.1 boards per game. Brown shot 38.9 percent from the field, netting double figures five times, most notably a season-high 13 points against the Lady Texans on Jan. 27.
"We had a very productive scrimmage at Seward back in November, and I thought that was a good opportunity to see who we are and where we're at," Baten said. "Trying to figure out what the rotation is going to look like, who's going to fit where and what matchups work out best, and how they handle different situations. This is going to be a learning process for us as we get started."
Ara Baten talks 2021 Lady Texan basketball with Michael Wiiest of KLVT Radio Levelland
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