It’s a new year and a completely different approach for Spring Valley girls basketball and coach Anne Long as the Vikings are adjusting to life without four-year stars Asia Dozier and Xylina McDaniel.
So far, so good for the new-look team which blasted first-year Westwood 55-29 on Tuesday to run its early season record to 4-1.
“Yes, it quite a difference this year,” said Long. “For four years we had a great core group of players, but this year we’re still kicking things around at certain spots to see what will work best. I’m liking our depth, especially the play by our young players. We could play as a many as 10 players a game regularly, which is certainly different that is has been recently. All in all, we’re doing OK.”
Returning veterans Cierra Carter, Megan Davis and Latisha Davis have emerged as the new team leader. Carter, a junior, came into the Westwood game average 17.3 points a game, and tossed in 16 against the rookie Redhawks. Smith, one of two seniors on the team, matched her season average with seven points, but sophomore Davis managed only five points after averaging 9.5 ppg in the first four games.
Juniors Raven Fleming and Briana Hill and sophomore Akia Dunlap are played some varsity ball a year ago, and are contributing at a combined rate of about 12 points a game so far this season.
“We have to make sure we play a pure form of basketball,” said Long. “If we handle the fundamental things well, I think we have a chance to have a successful season.”
Westwood (1-3) opened its inaugural season with a home win over district rival Richland Northeast, but has since come back to earth.
“Winning our first game in our first home game was a great experience, but maybe it gave the girls the idea that all the games were going to be easy,” said Redhawks coach Christeen Hagood. “We’re not a good team right now. We’re young and inexperienced and we’re playing too fast. Because of that, we turn the ball over too much. We have to learn to let the game come to us instead of trying to force the action all the time. It’s a process and we’ll get better.”
Westwood also plays a tough non-region schedule with dates against the fourth 4A schools in the district, but Hagood hopes the top-flight competition will help get her team ready for a tough Region 4-3A campaign in January.
The Redhawks looked good early against Spring Valley, jumping out to a 7-0 lead by the 5:35 mark of the first quarter. Then, the turnovers began. Westwood scored just two points over the next 9:48 by which time the Vikings had a commanding 23-9 lead.
Sophomore Samantha Pulley led Westwood with eight points, matching her season average. Freshman Tayloy Toney, who came in averaging 12.7 ppg, managed just six points against SV.