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Leopards have brand-new look

Hernando re-invents itself now that Bernice Mosby is gone.

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 24, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- The Hernando girls wrapped up practice early Friday to see last year's squad play.

Well, 90 percent of it, anyway.

The players went to Gainesville to watch Bernice Mosby, the Leopards' career scoring and rebounding leader, make her college debut in Florida's opener against Lamar.

There, the present-day Leopards got one last glimpse of their past as they prepare for an uncertain future.

"You can't replace Bernice no matter what you do," coach Pete Lahey said. "As good as she was, you don't replace her. So, instead of trying to replace her, you get kids to fill the spot on the offense and go from there."

Hernando will be a significantly different team without Mosby, the 2001-2002 All-Suncoast Player of the Year. Without a dominant inside player, the Leopards will be more of a running team, relying on quickness and defense to offset their lack of height.

"We're all pretty much little, except three players," senior guard/forward Christina Benoay said.

Mosby averaged a county-high 27.6 points and 14.5 points per game while leading Hernando to a 22-5 record and region final berth. Only a 39-31 loss to Orlando Bishop Moore kept the Leopards from advancing to the state final four for the second time in four seasons.

What will Hernando miss most?

"Definitely, offense," sophomore guard Olivia Murray said.

"Points, scoring," echoed Benoay.

Mosby wasn't the team's only loss.

Center/forward Jackie Matherly and guard/forward Ellen Widboom graduated, taking a combined 17.2 points and 11.3 rebounds with them. Guard/forward Kara Bailey opted to play soccer. Others who saw time off the bench last season transferred or did not try out.

So, how will the Leopards replace all that scoring?

"Oh, we have it," Benoay said. "Instead of one person scoring, everybody's going to be scoring this year."

After serving primarily in a ball-handling role last season, Benoay is being asked to do more scoring and rebounding this year. So are Hernando's other returnees, forward Whitney Griffin and guard Sophia Gill.

More help comes from the junior varsity, in the form of Murray, guard/forward Cori Frederick and center/forward Leslie Young.

Murray scored 18 points, Benoay 12 and Young eight in a 56-33 exhibition victory over Hudson last week.

The players, friends off the court, have yet to develop the same chemistry on it.

"We'll score, but we're not running our plays when we're scoring," Benoay said. "Whoever's open, we pretty much just pass them the ball."

"I think we just have to get used to playing with each other," Murray said. "I know as the season progresses, we will have that bond on the court that a team needs."

A return trip to the region final is probably out of the question. So, what will make the season a success in the players' minds?

"Play as a team and have fun," Murray said.

For that, they won't need Mosby.

-- Frank Pastor can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to pastor@sptimes.com .

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