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Owens making quick strides for Lady Mustangs
Jasmine Kennedy
South Effingham's Destinee Owens applies defensive pressure against Effingham County's Jasmine Kenndey during a game early this season. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON — Although just a second-year player for the South Effingham Lady Mustangs, Destinee Owens has grown into one of the most well-rounded and well-respected athletes on her squad. 

The forward is averaging 10.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. But her stats are the least of her concerns.

Owens feels responsible for the development of the team as a whole, saying her role as a contributor is vital.

“I want to help my team,” Owens said. “I’m not just looking for my individual stats or points. If I see someone that is open, they are going to get the ball before I try to take a difficult shot.”

Owens moved to the area from Tuscaloosa, Ala., two years ago. She said basketball in the Cotton State didn’t present the same challenges on the hardwood she faces today.

“The toughness,” Owens said, citing the difference in play. “In Alabama, it was easier but now it’s more aggressive and more competitive.”

And knowing she needed to achieve that competitive edge, Owens participates in AAU basketball where she’s taken on a more assertive approach.

“I’ve been playing AAU and being more physical and having to do more has definitely made me a better player overall,” Owens said.

During the offseason, there wasn’t a day that the senior didn’t touch a basketball. Knowing her weakness was defense, Owens was eager to fine tune that area of her game.

“I am more comfortable on the offensive side, but I play better on defense,” Owens said. “Last year, I had no ball-handling skills whatsoever. I’ve definitely improved with handling the ball. I’m better than I was last year.”

But there’s another skillset Owens has picked up in her second year at South Effingham. She enjoys assuming a leadership role on the team but admitted there are times when she’s faced with managing her emotions and well as her teammates.

“I do try to encourage my team when we are down,” Owens said. “I am really hard on myself. I know some of the younger players may look up to the older players on the team, so I do have to remain calm and uplift my team.”

As the Mustangs head into the Holiday Classic on Thursday through Saturday, Owens is reminded of the significance of non-region play as they head down the stretch.

“We definitely want to pick up more wins in the tournament,” Owens said. “We are looking forward to playing against teams where we think we can get back to our win streak.”

And in less than a month, the Lady Mustangs will open their Regiion 2-AAAAA schedule at home against New Hampstead. Last season, the Mustangs went 2-7 in region action.

“Our region play is some of the toughest,” Owens said. “I really want to win. (We will be facing) tough teams — they are very tall and athletic, but I have confidence in my team.”