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story.lead_photo.caption The Ashdown Lady Panthers team includes, back row:, head coach Beau Tillery, Emilee McDowell, Tania Calloway, Mahkia Cook, Traniya Ross, Makayla Moore, Aleya Hill, Vonee Thomas, Blaire Gentry and assistant coach Jerica Hubbard; and front row, Jessica Crussell, Shamari French, Jukarra Greenlee, Porsha Randle and Journey Pope. (Submitted photo)

ASHDOWN, Ark. — Ashdown finished the season with a regional championship in girls basketball, and the Lady Panthers are excited about the future.

The Panthers will return their entire squad from this season.

"It was huge for our program winning a regional title this past season," Ashdown head coach Beau Tillery said. "My assistant is Jerica Hubbard and her sophomore year (at Ashdown) they finished as the state runner-up. Since then there hasn't been a ton of consistent success when you look at the regional and state tournament. We've been middle of the pack in district but not a lot of success when it comes to regional and state.

"This is my fifth year here. My first year, everything was new and we were making a lot of adjustments. My second year we won district. My third year we were runner-up in district, my fourth year lost on a buzzer-beater to get to the regional championship. This year, we finally took a big step to get to the regional championship and to win a regional championship. It's mostly a group of juniors, so they're all coming back."

Aleya Hill, Porsha Randle, Vonee Thomas, Jukarra Greenlee, Blaire Gentry and Makhia Cook will return for Tillery. Sophomores Jessica Crussell, Traniya Ross and Emilee McDowell are also expected to contribute for the Panthers next season.

"Earlier this season we were still figuring out our roles within the team," Tillery said. "We were understanding who could do what and who could provide consistent scoring. We also had to plug players in the post and in a guard position. They had some big shoes to fill. I think that showed early on but we also played some really good teams early on.

"We like to play in tournaments that have teams that are athletically similar to us. We're usually the most athletic team in the district, but we're usually playing teams that are a lot more skilled. The 3A schools we play, we're the only one in our conference that has volleyball. I get my girls two weeks, if I'm lucky, before the season starts. As soon as we all get together, we just roll right into things. Sometimes we have to adjust on the go. We got the right matchups and we peaked at the right time of the season."

The Panthers would like to continue to progress, while building continuity in the offseason that will carryover to the regular season.

"We just want to continue to get better every day," Tillery said. "I would like to get better individually and as a team. Whether that's winning more games or not, you can still improve as a team. Even if your record doesn't show it. I just hope we continue to work as individuals on our skill-set and add that to the role we have within the team."

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