Present and future bright for Parkview girls

File Photo Parkview's Marissa Mandeldove drives the ball to the basket during a game earlier this season against Riverdale.

File Photo Parkview's Marissa Mandeldove drives the ball to the basket during a game earlier this season against Riverdale.

Tony Watkins is a veteran of the basketball coaching ranks.

He's got more than 600 wins at half a dozen schools in the metro area.

This is the first time he's taken over a program that was in good shape already.

The Parkview girls have been to the state tournament the last four straight years and won the Class AAAAA championship in 2003.

All of that was under the tutelage of Mike McCoy, whom Watkins coached with at Shiloh.

McCoy left Parkview to take a job in Mississippi at the end of last season. The Panthers replaced one veteran coach with another, hiring Watkins away from the boys program at Lanier.

"We still stress defense and play the press," Watkins said. "I've just tried not to mess up what was there.

"We've changed things up a little bit, but not the discipline. We're real young. We have five ninth-graders on the varsity. But so far, so good."

Parkview is 10-0 heading into this week's Upward Classic in Spartanburg, S.C.

Watkins and his staff were in South Carolina on Tuesday scouting Spartanburg, which the Panthers play Wednesday to kick off the three-day tournament.

Several teams there are capable of pushing Parkview as it prepares for the meat of the region schedule.

"It should be good," Watkins said. "We just stress who our opponent is. Right now, we're usually going to be the best team on the floor. But we have to give our best effort. We don't play up or down to the competition and we've been pretty good with that.

"We've been real happy with them."

Parkview, which lost in the first round of the state playoffs last year, has four returning players -- Erika Joseph, Marissa Mandeldove, Helena Pouengue and A.J. Jefferson. Mia Marshal, a 6-foot-2 junior tore her ACL and is out for the season.

The Panthers send out 10 players with regularity -- three seniors, a junior, three sophomores and three freshmen. Several times this season, all 18 girls have gotten in the game.

"If they're playing hard on defense and running the floor on offense the way we want, after about three minutes, they need a break," Watkins said.

Parkview, which is winning by an average of 56-30, had a highly successful summer playing together.

"We were 36-2 I think," Watkins said. "So we knew we were going to be pretty good. But also pretty young. The season we're having this year, the future may be even brighter."

The senior leadership, including Western Carolina recruit Joseph, has played a key role in Parkview's start.

They were around for the heartbreaking end to the 2009-10 season. The Panthers were 28-0 heading into the state tournament and abruptly ousted by Marietta. So they know an undefeated record doesn't guarantee anything.

"We do talk about it," Watkins said. "The wins are nice, but one thing about basketball, whether you win or lose, you may have to turn around and play the next night."

In their last game before a holiday break, the Panthers gutted out an ugly win over Milton. Their youth showed with 18 missed free throws.

Watkins is pleased with the way things are going though. His staff, which includes another former Shiloh assistant in Carl Zimmerman, works well together and Watkins' move to Parkview has gone well.

"We're really excited," he said. "The kids have been very coachable and very unselfish. They've really bought in. They're working hard and they have good chemistry -- all the things you need to be successful."