Owens Express women s basketball coach Michael Llanas, in his second year at the helm, is looking to improve a team that finished third in the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference with a 19-12 record.
The Express advanced to the semifinals of the National Junior College Athletic Association regional championships.
Llanas team faces a difficult schedule after losing seven players from last year s team.
The Express plays Monroe Community College of Rochester, N.Y., the two-time defending junior college national champions, as well as preseason No.1 Illinois Central and Cincinnati State, which has won the OCCAC five straight seasons.
We have a tough schedule, Llanas said. If we get through the first part of that schedule, it will let us know where we stand.
We have built our schedule up to play the best in the country, because we feel if we can play with the best in the country then we should be able to play with the best in the conference, Llanas said. We definitely want a league title this year.
Leading the way in her second year for the Express is long-range specialist Bridget Buss from Whitmer High School.
Buss averaged 9.5 points per game while connecting on 47.4 percent of her 3-pointers and was named honorable mention All-OCCAC.
Llanas says Owens fans should expect an exciting season.
They should expect an inside-outside team, Llanas said. We have lots of size and athleticism and when we get to the outside game, Buss is one of the better 3-point shooters in the country.
Buss has a good feeling about this year s team.
We have good chemistry, we work well together and we play well together, Buss said.
I have a lot of weight on my shoulders, because I am expected to score. Our goal is to go to nationals and win our league, and there is a very good chance of that.
Point guard Ashley Williams from Start High School returns after scoring 3.5 points per game last year.
Also returning for Owens CC are Kelly McPherson from Lake High School, Kira Sayles of Start, LaToya Bidden, a transfer from the University of Toledo, and Sarah Moore from Taylor, Mich.
Llanas brought in some local athletes to bolster his roster.
Brittany Murrell, from Central Catholic, will battle Williams for the starting point guard position, while Amanda Coressel from Patrick Henry, Brittany Barrera from Cardinal Stritch and Markeisha Hudgins from Woodward will provide depth.
Llanas has liked what he has seen from the returnees, as well as the newcomers.
Murrell is exciting to watch, Llanas said. She will keep you on the edge of your seat. With more discipline and getting to know the college game, she can be a very fine point guard in this league.
Another player by the name of Amanda Cogley from Lima Bath High School is another kid that is going to contribute from beyond the arc.
The Express will have to make up for the losses of Sarah Johnson (Northview) and Niccole Brown (Start), who combined to score over 29 points per game.
We lost seven girls last year, Llanas said. Three key people, with two being local kids. Johnson, who has [committed] to UT, Brown, who is now playing at South Carolina State on a full ride, and Heather Peer who is on a full ride at West Virginia State. So we need the returning players to lead us.
Owens CC opened its season Saturday with a loss to Delta Community College. Buss led the team with 12 points, while Murrell and Bidden added nine apiece and Cogley registered eight points.
The Express will host the Owens CC Tip-off Classic against Fanshawe College at 6 p.m. on Friday.
We have a lot of team players, who can play a lot of different positions, Murrell said. We don t have just two post players, we don t have just one point guard, we have a lot, so everyone should be able to contribute on this team.
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