Seminole looks up for grabs in girls' hoops

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Local squads should be in the mix

By Mike Forster

    Every season, so the theory goes, the district title is up for grabs in just about any sport.

    This season, it appears that the theory is accurate.  With Brookville having graduated its dominance, the crown could fall upon any of the solid candidates’ heads.

    The three Bedford County teams bring a mix of old and new to the fore, and each has a shot of being in the thick of things.

    Graduation certainly impacted the local squads, though not as severely as it did the Bees, who bid farewell to  Brittany Campbell (Liberty University) and Joyous Tharrington (Richmond), the most powerful one-two punch in the area.

    It’s certainly trite but, in this case probably true:  The District crown is very much up for grabs, with no clear-cut favorite, as there has been in the past several years.

    The case can certainly be made for Staunton River, and the Eagles would like nothing better than to take the title on their way out of the Seminole.  Staunton River will join the Blue Ridge District next year.

    The Eagles did lose Caitlin Falls, Talika Robinson and Allison Huddleston to graduation.  Those departures cannot be given short shrift.

    Head Coach Kim Jones, however, sees a very talented crew returning.

    Sam Sublett will be asked to fill the big shoes that Falls left when she departed to go play for Christopher Newport.  Sublett will have to play big in the post.

    Laquaksha Robinson will also play a bunch in the paint, backfilling for Talika’s graduation.  The junior brings a high level of energy and a good deal of length to the mix.

    Courtney Dearing will be asked to fill the sharpshooter role that Huddleston (now at Roanoke College) held.  Dearing is a hard-nosed sparkplug with a solid outside shot.

    The marquee player very well may be Kelly Jackson.  In her second season with the Eagles (having transferred from Amherst), Jackson is a multi-talented player who will most likely find the majority of her playing time at forward.

    With a proven ability to drive to the hoop, Jackson will most likely showcase her outside shooting skills this year.

    Jackson, Dearing and Ashleigh Overstreet are team captains.  Overstreet plays hard with a great deal of intelligence.  She can be used anywhere on the floor.

    “We’re not hiding behind Caitlin and Talika this year,” said Coach Jones.  “Everyone has to shine.”

    The Eagles finished in second place last year in both the regular season standings and in the Seminole tournament.

    In addition to a good-sized group of players from the varsity, the team also brought up a fair number of players from last year’s JV team.  That team only suffered one loss last season.

    The team will also be playing in its expansive new gym.  “The girls really liked it,” noted Jones.  “That is, until they had to run sprints in it.”

    Jefferson Forest is another team which should be in the thick of the Seminole hunt.

    The team returns nearly its entire starting lineup from last year’s fourth-place squad.

    Whereas Staunton River will be smallish, but fast, the Lady Cavs look to bring a lot of size to their game.

    Renae Brooks looks poised to make the most of her 6’3” height during her senior year.  “She’s one of our on- and off-court leaders,” said Head Coach Paul Redgate.  “She’s the brains of the team.”

    Brooks should find a lot of help in the key from Jessica Quarles, a senior who brings some good strength to the post.  Quarles is also a superb outside shooter.

    Brooks, Quarles and Mandy Dix are this year’s team captains.

    Dix, a shooting guard, is probably the best overall athlete on the team, with her mix of speed and quickness.  “She’s tough to stop in transition,” noted Coach Redgate.  “She’s great off the dribble and pulling up.”

    One of the preeminent players on the team is Rachel McKeague.   Only a junior, McKeague has the ball-handling skills to play point guard but the size to fill the post.

    Teams will find themselves in a mismatch situation when they face McKeague.  In addition to her ability to drive the lane and a fearless attitude about contact, McKeague has great stamina, thanks to her participation in cross country this past fall.

    Expect Forest to primarily play man-to-man on defense and to push an up-tempo style when that defense keys the transition opportunities.

    Redgate expects to go deep into his bench.  “What our eight through ten spots can give us will be crucial,” he said.

    Liberty hopes to build on the momentum it garnered last season with its advancement to Regional play.

    New Head Coach E.B Watson is carrying a large contingent this year:  15 players are on the Minette squad.

    At this early point, Watson was still evaluating her talent.  “I don’t like having a set five,” she said, vowing that her intent is to have significant rotation of the lineup.

    The Minettes have some significant things in their favor, even to the untrained eye. 

    For starters, one can be sure that they will be a speedy team.  That assumption is safe to make when you realize that the state 300-dash champion is in the lineup:  Kenara Hurt.

    There is no doubt that Hurt augments that speed with good ball-handling skills and a mental toughness.  She is also becoming more comfortable with shooting.

    A pair of fellow seniors should help out significantly from the post.  Sarah Kerr and Joy Thompson should provide very good strength inside.

    Providing a less muscular, but more scrappy rebounding style will be Jasmine Gates and Lachelle Starks.

    Cat Padgett and Kari Cassell are a pair of seniors that can fill in admirably at the 3 and 4 slots.

    Junior Brandi Witt showed herself to be one of the more heads-up guards in the District last year.  She is also the best three-point shooters on the team and has honed her skills through her work in the summer leagues.

    At this point, the team has a number of options, including going with a four-guard look or a quick-post look.

    “I have no problem going 15 (players) deep in a game,” said Watson.

    For now, though, the key for the coach seems to be in building a level  of comfort with a new coach and a new system. 

    Additionally, the players will have to adjust to everyone on the team carrying some of the load.  There are no superstars on this squad.  Similarly, there is no dead wood.

    An example of that total contribution is Keri Kremaric.  A senior, Kremaric is the type who encourages her fellow players and puts the team first.  “She’s a very hard worker,” noted Watson.  “She’s a good example to the younger players.”


Seminole outlook

    It would be foolhardy to try and make specific predictions here.

    Don’t count out Brookville.  The Bees may have lost their fearsome twosome of Campbell and Tharrington, but they still return Emily Dunton, probably the finest point guard in the District, if not the Region.  Plus, there’s that winning tradition that Brookville has.

    Rustburg, having unseated Brookville in volleyball, will look to do the same in basketball, led by Sharon Glass.

    Heritage, which finished third last season, is reputed to have a very athletic team, once again.  The Pioneers should be poised for a run.

    Amherst has a lot of question marks, but should see some improvement from last year and could surprise some teams.

    We should all know a lot more about these teams when they have their district openers on Dec. 12.  Non-league play kicks off on Dec. 2.