Janna Lyons has always been a firm believer that experience trumps everything when it comes to having a successful basketball team.
But the Horn Lake girls basketball coach is starting to rethink her position after watching an almost totally inexperienced squad jump off to a 12-0 start this season, leaving the Eagles as the only unbeaten team, boys or girls, in the Greater Memphis area.
What Horn Lake lacks in experience, it makes up for with heart and tenacity, traits Lyons has come to appreciate.
"I don't question how hard these girls are going to play night in and night out," said Lyons, who is in her seventh season at Horn Lake. "I can't say that I've always been able to say that about my teams. That is definitely the strength of this team. They don't like to take very many days off and they like to get after it night in and night out."
The Eagles were 26-5 last season, winning the Mississippi North Half championship before falling in the Class 6A state semifinals in Jackson to Forest Hill, 58-46.
Gone from that team are three starters — Jasmine Edwards, Brittani Biggins and Savannah Kimmons — along with a key reserve, Denesha Dillard. Other than returning starters Alondrea Rush and Brittany Grant, few others received much playing time last year.
But that hasn't stopped Horn Lake from picking up where it left off.
"I think in total, the amount of playing time that all of the girls averaged that weren't starting was very minimal," Lyons said. "But they still improved throughout the year and worked hard. I've seen a lot of that this season so far."
The Eagles have eight players averaging seven or more points. They are led by Grant, a senior guard who is in her third year as a starter. She is averaging 13.4 points. Rush, a sophomore who is in her second year as a starter, is averaging 11 points and four assists.
Other key contributors are Tranika Echols (8.8 points), Alexysa Thomas (11 ppg, 4.7 rebounds), Brayanta Conley (8.6 ppg, 4 rpg), Felicia Odom (8.2 ppg), Treasure Evans (7.4 ppg) and Kenesha Winfrey (7 ppg).
"That's another thing I enjoy about this team and I'm eager to see as we go down the stretch with them," Lyons said. "We've got a lot of players contributing."
Lyons is trying to keep her players grounded, knowing that there are plenty of tough district games ahead with teams like DeSoto Central and Olive Branch remaining. But it's the first of two regular showdowns against Southaven that the girls are really looking forward to. They will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Horn Lake, followed by a Jan. 29 meeting at Southaven.
Southaven is ranked No. 1 in the latest Dandy Dozen, followed by Horn Lake at No. 2.
"They're really excited," Lyons said. "Our district is tough and I keep the girls grounded on that. But I think they are looking forward to an opportunity to beat somebody that is ranked higher than them."