SPORTS HEADLINES

Basketball: Stepping to forefront

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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For three years, Courtney Kerr took a backseat to the Paradise Lady Panthers’ duo of Makenna Burt and Makala Neighbors.

“They were it – the little guard that could shoot and the big post that could score,” Kerr said. “I could shrink back and play my role.”

Rising to Occasion

RISING TO THE OCCASION – As a senior, Paradise’s Courtney Kerr is scoring a team-high 12.1 points per game, helping the Lady Panthers to a 22-5 mark with a chance to claim a share of the District 9-3A title. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

But in preparing for her senior year, Kerr knew that was not an option.

“As a senior, I needed to step up and be a leader,” Kerr acknowledged.

Kerr and the Lady Panthers have thrived with her in the new leadership role that she’s shared with fellow seniors Jett Preather and Kaylee McConnell. Paradise entered Tuesday’s game at 22-5 and 8-1 in District 9-3A. Friday, they meet Bowie with a chance to pull even atop the district.

“It’s been great,” Kerr said. “No one thought we’d be good this year.”

Kerr entered action this week averaging a team-high 12.1 points per game. She’s been in double figures in 22 of the Lady Panthers’ 27 games.

In the biggest of games and moments this season, Kerr has been at her best. She tossed in 14 against Bowie, helping to lead a comeback that eventually fell short. In a tight game against Boyd, Kerr hit the free throws at the end of the game to ice the win.

“I thrive on pressure,” Kerr said. “A lot of people shrink down. But I’m ready to step up to win the tough game.”

Paradise coach Kevin Pope has been impressed with growth of his guard and her increased confidence to take and make the big shot.

“She has confidence in her ability and that’s because she’s put in the hard work,” Pope said.

With McConnell’s ability to drive the lane and Preather’s work inside, the Lady Panthers have looked to Kerr to provide scoring on the perimeter. Kerr knows her 3-point shooting opens up the game for her teammates.

“Shooting 3s makes them have to come out,” Kerr said about opposing defenses.

“I feel as a team we are creating more shots. My teammates are opening it more for me to shoot, especially from the corners.”

Pope added that since Christmas his entire team has improved on moving the ball to find the open person on the perimeter.

While her play on the floor has played a major role in the Lady Panthers’ strong run, Pope has been impressed with Kerr’s demeanor at practice and willingness to help younger players in the program.

“She and all our seniors have done a good job of mentoring our younger kids,” Pope said.

To Kerr, it’s important to help the younger players improve and provide encouragement.

“I remember when I was younger and not very good, I was so excited when the older kids told me I did something good,” Kerr said. “It makes the team better also when everyone is smiling.”

Kerr signed with Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls before the season. With her college plans intact, she said it’s helped her this season.

“I can just relax and play my game,” Kerr said.

And her game now takes a backseat to no one.

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