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story.lead_photo.caption The Ashdown Pantherette basketball program has built itself into a championship contender under sixth-year head coach Beau Tillery. The Pantherettes will begin their quest for a state championship this week, beginning with the conference tournament. Photo by Submitted to the Texarkana Gazette / Texarkana Gazette.

ASHDOWN, Ark. — Nestled away outside of Texarkana is a powerhouse of a girl's basketball program at Ashdown High School.

Beau Tillery is in his sixth season as head coach of the Pantherettes and is looking to finish the goal his team set before the season started.

"It's been a struggle," Tillery said. "Different teams have different ways. With a team that's so capable, it's hard to keep them motivated.

"With the leads when it is late in the game, we've been trying to keep our girls motivated at all times. We don't want to look too far down the road. Our starters have played about three quarters a night, but they understand that the competition is going to go up as we go on to our regional tournament. There's some hoopers out there."

The Panthers finished as Conference 7-3A regular season champions with a record of 13-0 and only fell once during the regular season with a record of 20-1.

"Last season, we won the Region IV championship in Conference 3A," Tillery said. "We lost in the state tournament but this group understand the tasks we have ahead of us."

Vonee Thomas is leading Ashdown, averaging 14.0 points per game with 10 rebounds per game, and teammate Blaire Gentry is averaging 12.0 points per game with 10 rebounds per game.

Makia Cook and Jukarra Greenlee each are averaging six points per game for Ashdown this season.

"We've been fortunate enough to have some really good players," Tillery said. "We've been beyond blessed with kids that are athletic and coachable. My second year we won district, my third year we were runners-up in the state tournament, my fourth year we won district and last year we won the regional tournament.

"As much as I'd like to take the credit, we've been lucky to have the kids we have. We have girls that are playing on the next level, and we're going to have some off of this team that will potentially have a opportunity to play in college. It's more of a timing thing more than anything. I came in at the right time, with the right kids who were willing to be coached."

Porsha Randle is averaging eight points per game for the Panthers and teammate Aleya Hill is averaging nine points per outing this season.

Traniya Ross, Jessica Crussell, Shamari French and Kaylee Parker round out the rest of the Ashdown varsity girls' roster.

"I want our kids to stay locked in," Tillery said. "We want to continue to get better every day. We have some bumps and bruises, so we want to get healthy.

"Hopefully, we'll start peaking at the right time — during the district, regional and potentially state tournaments."

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