Mustang Girls Prepare for Conference Battles
There is a lot of optimism in the air on the North Moore campus as the Lady Mustangs gear up for the start of the 2012-13 basketball season.
With the return of senior Jesse Sheffield, an all-conference performer last year, and five other senior teammates, North Moore will try to recapture the Yadkin Valley Conference regular-season championship they won during the 2010-11 season.
“I’m excited about the season,” said head coach Sammy McNeill, who is coaching the Mustangs for the fifth straight season. “Having five or six seniors every year is a good sign and means the program is solid. Over the past couple of seasons, we’ve lost five or six seniors, but we have that many coming back.
“We lost a very good player in ‘Coca’ (Shakorya Brower) from last year’s team and she played a huge part in our success for the past couple of seasons. I’m excited to see who steps up to take her place and be a leader.”
Brower’s shoes are going to be pretty big to fill with her being the conference’s runner-up for player of the year to Albemarle’s Akela Branch.
However, joining all-conference Sheffield is fellow senior Jalisa Davis, who was having an outstanding season last year until she suffered a season-ending knee injury. Davis is now back with the team playing at full speed and ready to pick up where she left off last year.
“It’s good to have her (Davis) back,” said McNeill. “It really hurt us last year when she went down and other teams could just focus on Coca. Jesse is another senior I’m counting on to be a leader. She’s very solid on the court and gives it her best.”
Two other seniors that saw a lot of playing time last year were Tyisha Horn and Tiosha McCaskill. In the latter part of last season, McCaskill average a double-double in points scored and rebounds. Horn returns as one of the team’s leading rebounders.
“McCaskill has really stepped up and she’s gotten better over the summer,” said McNeill.
Two other seniors on the team are Mone’ Little and Myia Bush. Little hasn’t played basketball since her sophomore season, but her athleticism should be an asset to the team. This is Bush’s first year of playing basketball and she should see action off the bench.
“When I first came back, one of the things I wanted to do was develop a good junior varsity program,” said McNeill. “We have developed a program where we can stand to lose five or six seniors each year and not be hurt for the following year. That’s a good problem to have.”
The rest of the varsity squad is made up of one junior and four sophomores.
Junior Heather Dunnmeyer is a returning veteran, who saw a lot of playing time last season. Sophomore Casey Turner played on the varsity level last year as freshman and picked up a lot of playing experience. Sophomores Andrea Brower and Kasi Martin were members of the junior varsity team that finished second in the conference last year. Sophomore Emma Loutzenheiser is a transfer and should see a lot of action.
“We will be a very quick team,” said McNeill. “We hope that quickness translates on the basketball court. We’ll have to see what happens.
“We had a lot of problems at the free-throw line last year, but we’ve been working hard on improving. One of the things I like about this team, we can put a quick team or tall team out on the court.
“So if teams try to slow it down on us, we can speed the game up. Or if we meet a fast team, we can slow it down with our tall team.”
McNeill and his assistant coach Chris Coble believe the conference will be one of the most competitive at the 1-A level.
“The league is going to be tough with South Davidson having everybody back and over at Chatham Central, Coach (Gerald) Binkley always has his girls ready to play,” said McNeill. “West Montgomery has really improved and North Rowan should be good. Everybody has improved, so there aren’t going to be any easy games. We’ll have to come ready to play every night.”
To help his team to better prepare for a tough conference slate, McNeill has scheduled a tough non-conference schedule against larger schools.
The Mustangs will take on cross-county rivals 4-A Pinecrest, 3-A Union Pines and O’Neal. They have also scheduled a home-and-home series with traditionally strong 2-A North Stanly, who will be joining the conference next year. There is also a game with 2-A Eastern Randolph.
“Our first goal is to always win the conference championship,” said McNeill. “I tell the players it’s very important to win the conference (championship). It’s important because it’s the fairest way to tell how good a team is.
“You play each twice on each other’s home courts and there is no fairer way to determine a champion.
“Then you have the tournament and playoffs where its’ a one game deal. One bad game and you’re out. I’m very excited about the season and I think we should have a good season.”
The Mustangs kick off their season Monday at North Stanly.
North Moore’s first home game is Nov. 27 against Union Pines. The girls’ games are scheduled to start at 6 p.m. followed by the boys’ contest.
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