19-0 women’s basketball team aims for state tournament

Sam Graves, Staff writer

Once again, the South High women’s basketball team is in the running for a state championship. As of February 4, the Tigers are undefeated, with a 19-0 record. But their biggest obstacle still remains: beating Hopkins.

The South team has been one of the most elite teams in the state for the past five years. In 2007 and 2008, the team played in the state championship game but lost to St. Paul Central both times. In 2009, South won the title, with a large contribution from All-American guard Tayler Hill.

Now, in 2011, the Tigers are once again one of the top teams in the state. This year, the team is led by senior point guard Sattoria Rule. Rule transferred to South from DeLaSalle two years ago and soon after became a member of the team at South. At 5’ 7, she is South’s leading scorer, averaging 21.3 points per game so far this year, according to www.maxpreps.com.

“Since I’ve been here, the team chemistry has gotten better,” commented Rule. “We have bonded a lot this year.” She thinks that South is progressing toward the state championship this season. “That’s the plan,” she added. “We are moving toward getting there. We’ll see what happens.”

Rule’s fellow starters and contributors on the South team are junior captain Kaneesha Green, senior Sadiqah Jihad, senior Diamond Lane, and senior captain Laura Thomas. Lane said of Rule,  “I think she is a very good player and teammate, not selfish and loves her teammates. And she works hard every time she steps on the court.” Sadiqah Jihad agreed with Lane saying, “She is one of my closest friends and teammates. She has very good skills and a great personality.”

As for the other players, it is currently Green’s third year on the team. She agreed with Rule tat team has bonded more this year and said that, given their record, they have a good chance of making it to the state championship.

Although Lane is a senior, this is her first year on the team. Lane transferred from DeLaSalle for the 2010-11 school year and has found her place on the women’s basketball team by being the second leading scorer on the team, scoring 14.8 points per game, as listed on www.maxpreps.com.

As for winning the state championship this season, Lane remarked, “I think our chances are high. As long we keep playing as a team and getting better, no one can stop us from winning a championship.”

Senior Sadiqah Jihad, now in her fourth and final year on the team, said about the team, “I’ve enjoyed playing with everyone in the previous year and also this year. It’s a lot of different talent.”

The women’s team is coached by Ahmil Jihad, who is in his seventh year as South’s head coach. Previously,Coach Jihad coached the Washburn freshmen men’s basketball team, the Patrick Henry junior varsity men’s basketball team, and South’s junior varsity men’s basketball team. He describes his coaching style as “aggressive.”

Coach Jihad is cautious when talking about South’s state championship chances. “One step at a time for us,” he said. “We have our sights on winning another City Conference title, then we want to pursue the Twin City Championship, and then move towards the region 6AAAA title, which will put us in the state tournament.”

When asked about the impact of Rule on the team, Coach Jihad said, “Sattoria is a very special kid, and in my mind she has the talent to go very far and make things happen for herself.”

The team has benefited from the fact that Rule, Green, Lane, Thomas, and Jihad have played together outside of high school basketball on a summer team called the Lady Cats, which is also coached by Coach Jihad. The previous experience that the girls have from playing each other seems to be a factor in their team chemistry.

According to Coach Jihad, the South women’s basketball program has grown in popularity since the 2005 season, when Tayler Hill began her high school career at South. He added that it’s hard to compare South teams over the years. “We’ve had so many great players: Gabby Roberts, Hannah Cheese, Tyisha Smith, Tayler Hill, Mallory Cramer, Jenny Houle and Ephesia Holmes, just to name a few.”

These former “great” South players also seem to be making success for themselves in their post-high school careers. Hill is currently a sophomore and a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team, where, according to www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com, she scores an average of 9.7 points per game. Smith, a freshman player at Iowa Western Community College, is averaging 17.2 points per game and Holmes is a junior playing for SUNY Buffalo in New York, according to www.athletics.iwcc.edu and www.buffalobills.com.

South is hopeful of repeating its 2009 success. The 2009 state tournament was both stressful and thrilling. Smith injured her knee in the final game, but Hill led the team to a 68-61 win over Centennial. Coach Jihad said, “Tayler will always be seen as a groundbreaker for basketball in Minnesota, someone who really treated the fans to a show every night.”

In order for South to reach the state tournament and recapture the championship, Rule stresses the importance of the team needing to continue to play hard. South also has to be able to beat some of the top teams in the state.