Benton Harbor girls look to build off district title

Ottawa Hills’ Jalasha Freeman pressures Benton Harbor’s Shaliyah Perkins during a game last year at Benton Harbor.

Benton Harbor's girls basketball team was just 4-13 last season, but won a Division 2 district championship.

Second-year coach Kenny Jackson hopes that will help get the program moving in the right direction again.

“We're trying to build off that momentum,” Jackson said. “I think this year's team has a little more confidence, because they know that they can win.”

Key players include  senior Shaliyah Perkins, a four-year varsity player who averaged just under eight points and eight rebounds per game last season.

Also back are senior Kyra Nichols, who missed last season with a knee injury, and senior guard Eshanti Bell.

The Tigers have good size with 5-11 senior Kendra Kyles, 6-0 sophomore Aamya Johnson and 6-2 freshman Desrae Kyles.

Desrae Kyles is one of two freshmen on varsity along with Jyma Jordan.

"I'm looking for the two freshmen to come in and give us major minutes," Jackson said.

A challenge for Benton Harbor will be replacing Joh'nae Poindexter, now at Lake Michigan College, who did much of the Tigers' scoring last season.

"I'm trying to make one of our major strengths defense," Jackson said. "We don't have that one person we can give the ball to and get a bucket."

Repeating as district champions will be more challenging, as the Tigers are now in a district with Hamilton, a state semifinalist last season.

“I know we've got a tougher district this year,” Jackson said. “We welcome that.

"I really just want the program to get better. I want more discipline, more character in the program. If we lose districts but the program gets better, that's growth."

Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders