Patriot Girls Return Nine
The entire starting lineup returns for the Pinecrest girls’ basketball team that tips off the season at Southern Lee on Monday at 6 p.m.
“That’s definitely a big plus,” first-year varsity coach Janie Hodges says. “These girls have played together for four years now. Seeing them on the court together this year should be a great thing to see.”
The Patriots were 11-13 overall and 4-6 in the Southeastern Conference last season under Mike Loutzenheiser.
The 26-year-old Hodges led the Patriot junior varsity to a record of 18-6. She earned all-conference honors and played on two conference championship teams during her playing career at Hoke County.
A challenge for this year’s group, that includes nine returnees in all, will be to cut down on turnovers and convert a higher percentage of its offensive opportunities.
First-team All-SEC selections in 6-foot-3 Janea Williams and 6-0 Felicia Painter should give the Patriots a front court presence matched by few opponents. The University of North Florida-bound Williams averaged 11.8 points and 11.9 rebounds last season. She came within one block of a triple-double in one game.
Painter averaged 10.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per outing. She connected on 48 percent of her shots from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe.
“They know my expectations are a double-double every game,” Hodges says. “I’ve seen them transform from this summer to now and it’s going to be great seeing them play together. Their games have matured and their mindsets now are to win.”
Much of the ball handling will be in the hands of sophomore Jasmine Chalmers and senior Keegan Lynch, with the latter assuming more of the role of a shooting guard.
A varsity starter as a freshman, Chalmers averaged 7.0 points per game, led the team in steals and was the runner-up to Lynch in assists. Senior Megan Thomas, who earned all-league honors along with Williams, Painter and Lynch on the Patriot volleyball team that just completed the season with a record of 26-4, will operate as a small forward.
Other senior returnees include defensive sparkplugs Dessence Waddell and Morgan Braswell, versatile senior Azarriah Fairley and the strong rebounding Zuri Thomas.
Hodges will be counting on Chalmers to direct the offense.
“Jasmine is our point guard so she has to be our leader and she has to be vocal,” the coach says. “This is her second year and she knows the game. Keegan is the veteran on the floor. If Jasmine gets rattled she can definitely step in. But we need Keegan to be more of a shooting guard.”
Chalmers knows she has plenty of senior leadership behind her.
“I had confidence last year, but I have more this year,” she says. “I’m ready.”
The varsity newcomers are seniors Natoya Lacy and Brianna Alston, juniors Judith Lawhon and Danielle Paran, and sophomore Alysha Gaffney.
The Patriots missed the state playoffs after finishing in fifth place in the conference last season. Scotland High has most of its pieces back from the squad that won the SEC regular season and conference tournament titles. The Patriot goal is to succeed the Scots as league champions.
“The key to being successful this year is playing together and playing up-tempo,” Hodges says. “We’re going to push the ball up the court and we’ve got to make the easy baskets.
“We’re going to work hard in practice. If I work you hard in practice the games should be easy. That’s what I’m hoping will transpire for us this year.”
Williams says, “A lot of us have been together since we were in elementary school. We know how each other plays. Everyone has gotten stronger and we’re putting it all together.”
The Patriots’ home opener is on Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Jack Britt.
Nov. 19 – at Southern Lee; 20 – Jack Britt; 27 – Mount Zion; 30 – Southern Lee; Dec. 4 – at Jack Britt; 5 – Fayetteville Christian; 11 – at Mount Zion; 14 – Hoggard; 17 – at North Moore; 19 – at Hillside; 21-22 – Holiday in the Pines tournament; Jan. 11 – Lumberton; 15 – Scotland; 18 – at Purnell Swett; 25 – at Richmond; 29 – Hoke; Feb. 1 – at Lumberton; 5 – at Scotland; 8 – Purnell Swett; 12 – Richmond (Senior Night); 15 – Hoke; 18-22 - SEC tournament.
More like this story