By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Lady Colonels (5-5) will try to break a two-game losing streak when they play host to West Virginia State (3-3) today in McBrayer Arena.
The game will be the final tune-up for EKU before the team starts Ohio Valley Conference play with a tough road game at 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve against rival Murray State.
After losses to Ohio and Cincinnati on the road, the Lady Colonels return home where they are a perfect 5-0 in the friendly confines of McBrayer Arena this season.
In home games, EKU is outscoring its opponents by an average of 14 points per game, averaging five more rebounds per contest and holds a 2.2 turnover margin over its opponents.
Senior Jade Barber continues to lead the OVC in field goal percentage at 63.2 percent and blocked shots with 20. She is also ranked second in the league in rebounding at 9.7 boards per game.
Barber leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game and rebounding. She has scored in double figures in eight games this season.
Senior Raechele Gray had a career-high nine assists in the Lady Colonels Dec. 9 loss at Cincinnati. That was the most assists by a Lady Colonel since Laura Shelton dished out 10 assists against Radford in 2004.
This will be the second meeting between the Lady Colonels and Yellow Jackets. EKU won the last meeting 76-66 on Dec. 7, 2010. In that game, senior Alex Jones had a huge night, scoring 31 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. That is the last time a Lady Colonel has scored more than 30 points in a game.
West Virginia State, which enters the game having lost three in a row, averages 65.5 points per game while giving up an average of 70 points per game.
The Yellow Jackets average 43.4 percent shooting from the field and 40.8 percent from behind the three-point line.
Four Yellow Jackets starters are averaging double figures in scoring, led by Jasmine Blanton at 18.3 points per game, Asis Greenleaf with 14, Jordan Brock with 13.5 and Janelle Williams with 11.2 points per game.
EKU announces signees
Lady Colonel coach Chrissy Roberts Monday announced that the team signed five high school standouts during the early signing period including: forward/center Nicole Bowers and guards Amadi Brooks, Mariah Massengil, Katie Pippen and Kasey Young.
“I am extremely excited to announce our 2013 Lady Colonel signing class to the EKU Nation,” Roberts said. “In addition to being great basketball players, all five of them are tremendous students and even higher quality people that will represent my program and the entire Eastern Kentucky community with great pride.”
Bowers is a 6-2 forward/center from Nashville, Tenn. She enters her senior season at Hillsboro High School with more than 1,000 career points and rebounds. As a junior in 2011-12, Bowers averaged a double-double (17 points, 14 rebounds per game) for the Burros while being named first team all-district and first team all-region. She led Hillsboro High to two district and one region championship and one sub-state appearance during her career.
Bowers is rated as a three-star prospect and the No. 28 center in the country by ESPN Hoopgurlz. She is also rated as the No. 1 center in Tennessee and a top-15 player in the state by the website risingup.com.
“Nikki is a highly skilled post that will help fill the void created by the graduation of Alex Jones and Jade Barber,” Roberts said. “She is one of the best passing centers I have seen and has impeccable footwork in the paint. Nikki has range to the three-point line which makes her a dangerous threat on the offensive end and she is a great rebounder. Her high school coach, Cherish Stringfield, played at a high level (Vanderbilt) and has helped prepare Nikki for the work ethic and intensity required at the next level.”
Brooks is a 6-0 guard from Douglasville, Ga. A four-year starter at Douglas County High School, she averaged 14.4 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game as a junior in 2011-12 while earning all-county and honorable mention all-region honors. She also posted the highest GPA on the team and was honored with the Award of Achievement of the mayor of Douglasville.
Brooks is currently rated as a top-450 national prospect by the Jump Off Plus National Scouting Report.
“Amadi is a long and athletic wing that can score in a variety of ways and is versatile enough to play several different positions within my system,” Roberts said. “She can get to the rim and is strong enough to finish with contact, while also having a great mid-range game. She rebounds extremely well for a guard and is a tenacious on and off ball defender. Amadi is a true winner and is used to a high level of success as she plays for one of the best high school coaches in the state of Georgia in Chet Forsh.”
Massengill is a 5-4 guard out of Silverdale Baptist Academy in Harrison, Tenn. She averaged 31.5 points per game and 3.4 assists per game as a junior in 2011-12 and she enters her senior season on the cusp of scoring her 2,000th-career point. Massengill was named the district and region player of the year as well as first team Best of Preps and Class-A all-state following her stellar junior campaign.
Massengill is rated as a three-star prospect, the No. 73 point guard in the country and one of seven standouts from Peach State Basketball Elite 32 Summer Jam by ESPN Hoopsgurlz. She has also been ranked as the No. 51 point guard in the country by Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
“Mariah is firecracker and a true scoring point guard,” Roberts said. “She elevates the play of everyone around her and is in constant motion on the basketball court. The numbers that she has put up during her high school career are nothing short of amazing. She will thrive in our up-tempo system and I know that our Colonel fans will enjoy watching her play from day one. She is a coach’s kid, as her father, David Massengill is also her high school coach, and their constant approach to working on her game and I.Q. has led Mariah to her current and future successes.”
Pippen is a 5-9 guard from Tates Creek High School in Lexington. She averaged 10 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game as a junior and is currently averaging 16 points per game as a senior.
Pippen has been rated as a top-30 prospect in the state of Kentucky by prep basketball guru Rick Bolus.
“Katie is the true definition of a glue player and I am excited to add her to our Lady Colonel family,” Roberts said. “She has one of the best work ethics I have ever seen and will do whatever it takes in order for her team to be successful. She has a very effective mid-range game and shoots well from the three, as well as having a strong presence on the defensive end. Katie has had two great coaches in Justin Cheatham and Tina Winn that have led Tates Creek to success in one of the most difficult regions in the state of Kentucky.”
Young is a 5-11 guard out of Danville High School in Danville, Ky. She recently entered her senior season with 1,576 career points after averaging 17 points per game as a junior in 2011-12. She also averaged 6.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 blocks per game, 2.1 steals per game and shot 38 percent from three-point range as a junior, while being named first team all-region and honorable mention all-state. She led Danville High to an All-A region title in 2011-12.
Young is rated as the No. 5 prospect in the state of Kentucky and as a top-100 national prospect by High Potential Recruiting.
“Kasey is a big guard that shoots the ball really well and with great efficiency,” Roberts said. “She has a quick release and her size on the wing allows her to create her own shot with ease. Kasey will be able to play a variety of positions within my system and I look forward to her causing match-up problems for our opponents. Coach Judie Mason has done a great job of working with Kasey to continually raise her skill set and preparing her for college basketball.”
“This class was tremendously important for a variety of reasons, the first being it replaces my first recruiting class here at EKU and, more importantly, those six graduating seniors have laid the foundation of success for the future of the women’s basketball program here at EKU,” Roberts said. “It will be extremely hard to replace Alex, Brittany, Jade, Raechele, Jalisa, and La`Rae, but I am confident that this group has the chance to be special and leave their own mark on the Lady Colonel program. I know that my five signees will be ready to step in and build on the traditions of this program while also leading us to even higher expectations. My staff and I worked hard at targeting Nikki, Amadi, Mariah, Katie and Kasey, and then showing them both my vision for this program and their future within the EKU family.”