Patriot Girls Look for Breakout Season
Second-year head coach Alvita Williams Thomas feels the excitement is back in the girls basketball program at Pinecrest.
The team finished 6-18 under the former Pinecrest and Fayetteville State standout last season, and the program hasn't had a winning campaign in this decade. But an interesting mix of returnees and newcomers provides a lot of reason for optimism.
The Patriots open the season on Thursday at home against Jack Britt with a tip-off time of 6 p.m.
A good place to start is at point guard, where Jennie Joy has the ability to make everyone around her better. The junior transferred to Pinecrest after serving as the floor leader at O'Neal for two years and helping last year's squad compile a record of 19-8. She averaged 10 points, five steals and three assists per game last season and also drained 33 threes.
Thomas expects Joy and junior returnee Ashleigh McKenzie to become a strong backcourt combination.
"They work extremely well together, and they get along perfectly," the coach said before a recent scrimmage against East Montgomery. "Ashleigh can shoot from anywhere, and Jennie likes to drive a lot. They've already learned how each other plays, and it's going to be exciting to watch them."
Another returnee is 5-11 senior forward Candice Seagraves, who could be one of the leading rebounders in the new Southeastern Conference this season. She is also a good defender and an improved scorer.
Other starters in the front court for the scrimmage were 5-11 senior Cayla Herm and 5-10 Felicia Painter, one of four freshmen on the squad. Ivory Ferguson, a 6-1 senior, is another potential starter up front with 6-2 freshman Janea Williams and 5-9 senior Paige Horne adding depth.
Senior Tianna Crawford and junior Lizzie Smith will play on the wings. Freshmen Keegan Lynch and Megan Thomas, who drained three treys in the scrimmage, round out the squad.
The freshmen contingent is an interesting one in that Williams, Painter and Thomas all got a preview of varsity level competition as key players on the volleyball team this fall.
"Volleyball was such a help for Janea," Thomas said. "She out-rebounds everyone on the team and plays with a lot of control. She knows basketball."
One of the reasons for Thomas to be excited was the turnout of 38 players for tryouts. Darla Watson and Toni Douglas Boney will again assist her. Lori Mongelluzzo will coach the junior varsity and a freshmen coach is still to be named.
The other teams in the Southeastern Conference are Richmond Senior, Scotland County, Hoke County, Lumberton and Purnell Swett. Teams included in the annual Pinecrest Holiday Tournament on Dec. 21-22 are Richmond, East Montgomery and Southern Lee.
Schedule: Nov. 19 Jack Britt; 21-24 Pilot Cup at North Moore; Dec. 1 Red Springs; 3 at Southern Lee; 4 at Western Harnett; 8 at Red Springs; 11 at Cardinal Gibbons; 18 at Overhills; 21-22 Pinecrest Holiday Tournament; Jan. 5 at Flora MacDonald; 8 at Lumberton; 9 Union Pines; 12 at Scotland; 15 Purnell Swett; 22 Richmond; 26 at Hoke; 29 Lumberton; Feb. 2 Scotland; 5 at Purnell Swett; 9 at Richmond; 12 Hoke; 15-19 Conference Tournament.
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