With an all-senior lineup, it’s a now-or-never kind of season for the Heathwood Hall girls basketball team and senior star A’ja Wilson.
The Highlanders have won 79 games in Wilson’s four seasons as a varsity starter, but never a SCISA championship. The bitter taste of two straight title game setbacks lingers. The 6-foot-4 forward with smooth ball-handling skills help a USA national team win an international championship last summer, but has yet to cut down the nets in Sumter.
Talk about a player and a team on a mission.
Wilson averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.0 steals and 5.0 blocks last season. She was clearly the best player in the independent school ranks, but it takes a team to win a championship. And, Heathwood hasn’t been good enough yet to ascend the throne.
The current lineup gets one last shot at glory.
In addition to Wilson, fellow seniors Victoria Dickerson (13,0 ppg), Gadson Lefft (10.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 spg), Chelsea Joseph (5.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.3 spg) and Erin Ress (6.2 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.8 spg) are back for one more title bid.
The Highlander boys find themselves in a different reality. Two starters return but only one other player returns with experience from last season’s 12-13 squad.
“This is a better shooting team and our overall quickness is better which should allow us to pressure more on defense,” said coach Jeff Whalen. “We are a very young team and it will take time for all the new players to adjust to our system and the demands of varsity basketball.”
Senior guard Trenton Flemming (7.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.2 apg) and sophomore guard Nygel Vaughn (8.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.7 apg) make up the veteran core. Junior forward Alex Curtin (2.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg) is the only other returning varsity vet. Senior Mac Ellen returns after sitting out last season with an injury.
Newcomers to watch include transfers Ryan Ellis and Tucker Ruble, plus Edwin Propst, Julian Hennig and Brandon Hill.