Lady Hornets may have found new head basketball coach

The Huntsville girls may have found their next basketball coach.

And they didn’t have to look very far.

After looking for the best candidate to replace Pinellafie Johnson, who retired following the 2017-18 season, Huntsville athletic director Rodney Southern said he’s recommending LaToya Bennett to the Huntsville ISD Board of Trustees to become the Huntsville girls basketball coach. Pending board approval, Bennett would become the Lady Hornets’ new head coach.

“Number one, she’s from here. She understands where we are as a program and knows Coach Johnson and how she went about her business,” Southern said.

“Coach Bennett will have a young, talented team to work with.”

Bennett would be taking over a team that has been to the playoffs in two of the last three years. Last season, the Lady Hornets missed tying for first place in District 20-5A by one game.

“Before I left and went to Sam Houston State, Coach Johnson and I were working extremely hard to build the program back up to where it was. The last year I was there, we clinched a playoff berth and got to the first round. It’s always a goal to get to the playoffs and continue to build your program. I really appreciate what she’s done as far as her work with the program and the community. I think it’s going to be a huge benefit to our program.”

With several returners back, including leading scorers Rukiah Utley and Markayla Johnson, the Lady Hornets look to make some noise during the 2018-19 season.

“I really see myself building off what’s already in place,” Bennett added. “They already have a good defensive background. I think that’s what’s been beneficial to them over the years with their speed and their ability to stop players. I think the piece that I’m going to be able to add to them is player development and creating opportunities to score. I’m really looking forward to getting in and working with the girls one-on-one.”

Bennett has spent the past two years as an assistant coach at Sam Houston State in which she also served as recruiting coordinator for the women’s basketball team. Before coaching the Bearkat women, Bennett was an assistant girls basketball coach at Huntsville, as well as an assistant coach for track and field. Bennett worked with Huntsville ISD for eight years.

Bennett played basketball at Sam Houston State from 2004-08 as a post player.

Bennett is a native of New Waverly and a 2003 graduate from New Waverly High School, lettering in basketball, track and field and cross-country.

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Gene Schallenberg is the Sports Editor for The Huntsville Item.