"Attack it!" ... "Push it!" ... "Be aggressive!"
When NWF State women's basketball head coach Tamela McCorvey approaches a game, there's a certain style of play she expects.
The 30-year-old wants to run opponents out of the gym, put defenses on their heels, create a tempo of fast breaks and quick, high-quality shots. Mike Anderson coined the term the "Fastest 40 minutes in basketball" at Missouri, a philosophy McCorvey is trying to instill in Niceville.
When she doesn't see that from the sideline, she makes it known with the above instructions.
At their best, the Raiders are a national-title contender when they carry out assistant coach Marvis Hodges' defensive principals and McCorvey's run-and-gun offense. They force shot-clock violations, deny entry passes, create turnovers and thrive in transition, setting up an offense that possesses speed for days.
At 11-2 entering the break with four wins over ranked opponents, the Raiders have been successful to a large degree.
They've outscored foes 69-49 on the season. They've limited opponents to under 31 percent shooting. They've won the rebounding battle by a 40-31 average margin and forced 21 turnovers per game.
All of this points to a defensive juggernaut. Offensively, though, the Raiders are no prolific crew.
They're shooting just 41.4 percent from the floor, 26.6 percent from beyond the arc and are being outshot at the free-throw line 24-21 by opponents. Only Jade Lewis (12.6 points) and Britney Snowden (11.6) are averaging double-figure points for a crew that's only twice topped 75 points this year.
"We're not putting people on their heels," McCorvey said. "That's why I say we have to do a better job in transition. Once we start attacking the rim and stop settling for jump shots, we'll be a way better team."
We tend to agree. Team Grade: B-minus.
MIDSEASON REPORT CARD
Nasheema "Fruit" Oliver, 6-3 sophomore center: B-minus. Fruit's offensive game is developing, her 8-for-8, 14-point effort at the end of the break indicating that. But she needs to be stronger defensively and on the glass. Dealing with a foot injury, she's averaging 8.8 points on 53 percent shooting and 4.2 rebounds.
Jasmine Rhodes, 5-8 sophomore guard: B. Rhodes, from Crestview, is nearly unstoppable in the open court and when going to her dominant right side. She's the quickest guard in the Panhandle and has improved her shot, but she needs to attack the rim and play more with her head up. Her 9.6 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting should only improve.
Amber Thompson, 5-8 freshman guard: B-minus. Thompson needs to be more unselfish and improve on her 7.3 points per game and 39-percent shooting clip from the floor. When she's at her best, she's attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line.
Juanisha Young, 6-1 sophomore forward: C. She has a nice midrange game and athleticism, but she's been too timid this season on the glass and taking the open shot. Her 2.5 points per game needs to improve.
Ashley Lee, 5-11 freshman forward: B-minus. She's been battling shin splints, but when she's healthy she's been aggressive and willing to do the dirty work defensively. She just needs to be more consistent to raise that 4.2 points, 3.4 rebounds per game.
Berniezha Tidwell, 5-7 freshman guard: B-plus. The guard was ineligible the entire semester until Dec. 15's win, when she poured in 14 points and flashed a knack for getting to the rim and showcased some suffocating D. Expect her to bring a much-needed toughness to the Raiders.
Mercedez Claybrone, 5-11 sophomore: B-minus. A defensive specialist that always seems to be in the right place at the right time for a charge or steal, she just needs to work on her explosiveness on the offensive end.
Britney Snowden, 6-0 sophomore forward: B. Last year's first-team Panhandle conference started a bit slow and is now dealing with an MCL injury, but she's still a double-double threat. Expect her 11.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game to only improve in the second half.
Jade Lewis, 6-0 freshman forward: B. When the Jacksonville product is shooting the ball well, she's unconscious. But for every 28-point effort follows a single-digit night. Consistency as NWF State's go-to scoring threat (12.5 point per game on 40 percent shooting) and a commitment to playing better defense could lead the Raiders to postseason success in the second half.
Bethany Allen, 5-9 freshman forward: C. Doesn't play much but is hard-nosed and never has any problems with the coaching staff.
Aaliyah Rice, 5-9 sophomore forward: C. Still waiting to have breakout game with averages of 2.9 points per game on 41 percent shooting.
Head coach Tamela McCorvey: B. Asked to grade herself, the 30-year-old budding coach gave herself a C. "There's always room to grow, to get better in a lot of areas," she said. Calm and collected, always a reassuring force on the sideline but also brutally honest, McCorvey's strengths are obvious. It just comes down to whether not she can get the Raiders to run and execute her style of offense to get them to the national tournament and finally past the elite eight.
Assistant coach Marvis Hodges: A-minus. The defensive mastermind has his stamp all over NWF State's across-the-board success. Said McCorvey: "He's been in this game for years and years, he coached me and he simply knows a lot about the game."Defensively DeMeo even told me, 'Maybe we can get Marvis in here one day because it will pay dividends.' Every practice he brings 1,000 percent."
Assistant coach Lady Comfort: B. What the former professional player brings to the table is her playing experience and her post talents - offensively and defensively. "She'll get out there and play with them and bang with the bigs," McCorvey said. "She could be a little more vocal, but otherwise she knows her role and excels in what she does best."