Mark Shelley’s Chapin High girls basketball team will find out exactly where it stands in tough Region 4-4A over the next few days. The Eagles have two demanding road trips on deck – Friday at Chester, and Tuesday at Lower Richland.
“To say we’re facing a big challenge is an understatement,” said Shelley, whose team stands at 14-2 overall, 2-0 in region play.
“We know that we have two very daunting games coming up at Chester and at Lower Richland, and we have the utmost respect for both of those teams. We know that in order for us to be successful in those games and for the remainder of the season, we must stop transition, value the basketball, play team defense, and rebound. Those are our keys every game in terms of playing smart, fundamental basketball. We're going to give both games our best shot and see what happens.”
Chester sports a 12-1 record (2-0 in region play) and has won 11 in a row since falling to 4A York in the second game of the season on Dec. 4. The Cyclones are a high-scoring, explosive team that creates a lot of easy basketballs off pressure defense. Senior Micah Wessinger is the Chester star. Wessinger rang up 32 points in the region opener last Friday against Fairfield Central.
Lower Richland, of course, is the team to beat. The Diamond Hornets have lost just one game to date in its first season at the Class 3A level. LR has won three straight state championships under coach Debbie Stroman, and star forward Morgan Stroman, the daughter of the coach.
Chapin has picked it up after suffering a loss to Darlington in the first round of a holiday tournament in North Myrtle Beach. The Eagles rebounded and started what has become a five-game winning streak with a 64-56 conquest of Wilson. Over the past four games, the Eagles have allowed an average of just 23.5 points a game.
“The win over Wilson at NMB was a big key in helping us gain the confidence that we can compete with and beat the best teams in the state,” said Shelley.
“Our guard play has improved – especially in terms of handling pressure and taking care of the ball. Our posts are being much more physical and looking to score more often this year. I am most pleased with three main aspects of our game right now: a) We are well-balanced on offense with all five starters averaging between about 7.5 and 12.5 ppg, b) We are much better defensively than last year, allowing nearly 10 points less per game on average compared to 2007-2008, and c) We are taking care of and sharing the basketball as our assist to turnover ratio continues to improve.”
The bulk of Chapin’s balanced offensive productions has come from Ashlee Wilson (11.7 ppg), Layla Neal (8.3 ppg), Alexa Conners (8.4 ppg), Amy Lepper (8.3 ppg) and Kelly Coker (7.3 ppg).