Tishal Turknett and Carolyn Hennecken have played basketball together since each was in elementary school.
They played recreation league and later on the same travel ball team. They are now helping lead a young Lakeside High School team primed for its first round region tournament meeting with Hephzibah today.
The sophomores don't have a lot of experience on the floor of a high school playoff game, but their style of play and coolness under pressure resembles that of upperclassmen.
Hennecken is a two-year starter at point guard and was the team's leading scorer as a freshman. Turknett emerged towards the end of last season and starts at shooting guard for the Panthers, but she has the ability to play anywhere on the floor. Each has an average 11 points per game entering today's game.
Turknett has the ability to run the offense when Hennecken is out, but Lakeside coach Maureen McCormack prefers the ball to be in Hennecken's hands.
"She's just our go-to player in the crunch," McCormack said. "For a 10th grader, she takes control of the game for us when the pressure's on."
McCormack said the sophomores have benefited from playing basketball all year. The two played for the same AAU team each year until last summer and played for the Columbia County recreation department before that.
Each also likes to spend time away from organized competition to work on their games.
Turknett plays at the YMCA and at her home. She's earned the nickname "Paws," a nod to her defense and ability to get a hand on the ball. Turknett said her focus was on defense throughout her latest AAU season.
"The main thing I was focused on is, 'Defense wins basketball games, offense sells tickets,' " Turknett said. "It was really true. A lot of cases, it's the defense that shuts down a better team."
Hennecken said she spends her individual practice time working on every aspect of her game. She also practices with her older brother, Kevin, and sometimes shoots with her dad.
The commitment from both has helped the Panthers on the floor this season. The Panthers' lone senior, Kathleen Early, has been a key contributor, but the younger players have been asked to carry much of the burden. And they've done well enough during Lakeside's first season in the new-look Region 3-AAAA to encourage McCormack.
"We beat the teams we flat out should have beat," she said. "And we're getting closer to upsetting the teams that, right now, are still a little bit ahead of us."
Hennecken, Turknett and the rest of the Panthers will have their hands full today with Hephzibah. The Rebels, who finished third in Region 3-AAAA, beat the Panthers both times the teams met this season.
But the Panthers cut the final margin in half the second time, and McCormack's team won four of its final five games.
"Everybody has to be on the same page," Hennecken said. "We've had games where one or two people are doing well. We've had games where no one is doing well. We need a game where everyone is doing well to beat a team like that."
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