Lady Lions seek to make history with senior-dominated lineup


Pineville Lady Lions Team members include, from left, front row: Makenna Partin, Virginia Hall, Raigan King, Whitney Caldwell, Summer Partin and McKenzie WIdner; back row: coach Beth Howard, coach Kim Yates, Halle Jones, Alyssa Howard, Rachel Howard, coach Jamie Mills, Ava Arnett, Kamryn BIliter, Malley Smith, coach Amy Shields and coach Tony Teague; not pictured: Abby Jackson.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

With four senior starters back from last year’s 17-11 squad, the Pineville Lady Lions aren’t just thinking about having a good season in 2021.
They are focused on making history.
“I think the girls know this is an opportunity. You can see the difference in maturity on the floor,” said Jamie Mills, who is heading into his seventh season as coach. “They have confidence. They have been there and done that and played in big games. We’re looking forward to it. We just hope we get to play.”
After a disappointing showing in losing to Clay County in last year’s regional, Mills reminded his team they could get another chance the following season to do something no Pineville squad has done since 1984. The Lady Lions are 2-18 in regional tournament action and have a losing streak that stretches back almost 37 years.
The Lady Lions will also be the 13th Region All “A” Classic favorite, a tournament they have won only once before and that was in 2013.
“We have good size, good athletic ability and some speed this year. We have a good combination of everything,” Mills said. “We’re working on an inside-outside game and trying to develop chemistry with some of the younger girls.”
Much of the reason for the optimism is traced back to 5-7 senior guard Whitney Caldwell (17.7 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game last season), a four-year starter who has committed to the University of the Cumberlands.
“She brings a lot to the team. The girls probably lean on her too much,” Mills said. “She can do it all though. She’s a great scorer, rebounder and defender and doesn’t make mistakes. She’s solid and works as hard as anyone I’ve seen.”
Raigan King (14.9, 6.1), a 6-0 senior headed for Union College, provides a post presence that few in the region can match.
“Raigan gives us that inside threat. She can shoot and can make her free throws,” Mills said.
Summer Partin (6.2, 5.3), a 5-9 senior, is back at forward.
“She’s come a long way,” Mills said. “She was one of our top rebounders last year, and she can shoot. She plays a lot in the summer, and that has helped her.”
Virginia Hall (5.3, 2.6) will start at the wing opposite Caldwell.
“She brings a lot of intensity. You never have to tell her to hustle,” Mills said. “She doesn’t take a play off.”
Abigale Jackson, a 5-6 sophomore who transferred from Bell County, will take over at point guard.
“She’s extremely fast and athletic,” Mills said. “She can scoot. She really gives us some speed.”
Halle Jones, a sophomore guard, will provide depth, along with 6-0 sophomore post players McKenzie Widner and Makenna Partin.
“Halle knows the game and gives us some experience off the bench,” Mills said.
Mills is also excited about several players moving up from one of the region’s top middle school teams. The group features eighth-graders Ava Arnett, Kamryn Biliter and Alyssa Howard, as well as seventh-graders Mallie Smith and Rachel Howard.
“They can play, but they have to adjust a little, especially man-to-man defense. We hope they can blend in with these older girls,” Mills said. “We just want them to play defense and take care of the ball.”