The Class A girls’ basketball teams feature four teams in three different spots.
Williston-Elko and Ridge Spring-Monetta both made the playoffs last year, and both will look to improve upon their performances. The Trojans and Blue Devils were both knocked out in the first round by higher seeds.
Fox Creek, on the cusp of making the first playoff appearance in school history, missed out on the final week. Wagener-Salley will look to get back on track after a rough season.
Head coach: Richard Brady
Last year: The Lady Predators were 8-10, 7-9 in Region 4-A, and missed making the playoffs.
Season opener: Tonight vs. Cross Creek at 6 p.m. at Sweetwater Baptist Church.
The Predators went into the final week of last year’s season with playoff aspirations that fell just short. This year Fox Creek head coach Richard Brady, in his first year at the helm, hopes to get the Lady Predators into the playoffs for the first time in the school’s eight year history.
“We’ve never had a girls’ team in the playoffs,” he said. “We hope to find a way to fight our way in there for the first time.”
Domonique Moore, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago with 13.6 points per game, is returning. Unfortunately for the Lady Predators, she will miss time with a leg injury that will require surgery. Currently Moore has lined up the procedure before Christmas break.
“She’s going to probably miss around five or six games,” Brady said. “She plays inside for us and she’s really athletic. She’s not the biggest girl, but she makes up for it with her quickness.”
Keiana Green, who averaged 10.8 points per game, also returns. Along with Haley Bryant, the Predators will boast some strong guard leadership on the court to run their man, up-tempo style of play.
“We’re a little deeper than last year, we’ve grown from having only eight girls to having 12,” Brady said. “We’ve only had one scrimmage with volleyball doing as well as they did, so we’ll have to see what happens on the court. We’re looking forward to the challenge and stiff competition we’ll face.”
Head coach: Eva Strong
Last year: The Blue Devils went 20-5, 13-3 in Region 4-A last year. They entered the Upper State playoffs as a No. 3 seed and lost to McBee in the first round.
Season opener: Dec. 4 at home against Barnwell.
Williston-Elko basketball is alive and well according to head coach Eva Strong, and this year the product on the court will be very new and very interesting.
The Blue Devils will return six upperclassmen, none of which will be bigger than Ebony Corbett.
“I have asked her to be a leader for us this year,” Strong said. “She has the energy and drive to be better and she has distributed that to the team.”
The importance of that distribution is immense, considering that the rest of Williston-Elko’s roster is filled out by freshmen, nine in all. Also two of the other players that Strong is counting on, DaQuana Davenport and Ariel Thomas, have had injuries which have them playing catch up with the rest of the team conditioning-wise.
“The nine freshmen love basketball and are willing to do whatever I ask,” Strong said. “For a moment I had some doubt, but they’re all excited for the challenge of stepping up from middle school to varsity. They’re a bunch of go-getters.”
Defensively the Blue Devils will play man-to-man, though Strong notes that the team “hated to play it” initially last year. Strong has also drawn up many zone offensive sets for her Blue Devils, and the offense will have an emphasis on motion.
“We’ve been working in stages so far, the first week or so we had conditioning,” Strong said. “Then we moved on to ball handling and getting the younger girls use to the next level. We’ve only had one scrimmage (against Wade Hampton) and we scored eight points in the first half. All of those points were on free throws, too, so I was at least happy that they were making their free throws. They started scoring more in the second half, but I’m trying to get them hyped for playing four quarters rather than the last two.”
Head coach: Ken Tucker
Last year: The War Eagles finished with a 4-19, 2-14 in Region 4-A record last year.
Season opener: Nov. 29 at home against Pelion at 6 p.m.
The War Eagles are looking to rebound following a disappointing season that saw them further down in the region. Three years ago the War Eagles won the region and two years ago they slipped to seventh before ending up in the cellar last year. This year’s squad will boast two seniors, two juniors and a combination of seven sophomores and freshmen.
“We have a good group of young women who I think will improved with time,” Wagener-Salley head coach Ken Tucker said. “We’re just a young team.”
Key to the War Eagles’ potential rise will be My’Ondrea Landy, who plays point guard. Tucker points to her as the team’s leading returning scorer and a player that Wagener-Salley will count heavily on.
“We moved her into the point guard slot more out of necessity,” Tucker said. “But she continued to get better and has become a better scorer. We just need her to continue improving that part of her game.”
Wagener-Salley will also return Jenna Starnes, who Tucker described as “one of the most athletic players on the team.” This is only her second season as a basketball player, and Tucker is hopeful that she will make a leap in her second go-round.
Amirah Miller heads the freshmen class, and Tucker is excited about her potential.
“She looks to be a good player, she’s very smart and just needs to get some more experience,” he said. “I think she can be a good player for us for years to come.”
Since the War Eagles are a smaller team, they will have to rely more on their speed.
“We’re going to press and try to create turnovers,” Tucker said. “We have to use our speed to our advantage.”
Head coach: Gail Johnson
Last year: The Lady Trojans went 16-8, 10-6 in Region 4-A last year. They made the playoffs as a No. 4 seed and lost to C.A. Johnson in the first round.
Season opener: Tonight at Strom Thurmond at 6 p.m.
The Trojans lost their cornerstone in the offseason, F/C Shay Freeman, who graduated last year. This year’s squad will be anchored by the Tyler sisters – Ty’Miah and Ty’Quazja, both of which play guard.
RS-M also boasts other returning contributors to last year’s playoff team, including Kendra Cyrus, Quita Brown and Tiffany Gomillion. Raven Valentine will also provide a presence in the low post and likely take over Freeman’s share of touches.
Scott Rodgers is a graduate of Alvernia University and a staff writer at the Aiken Standard.