First Posted: 1/15/2009
RED SPRINGS - It's still very early in the season for the boys and girls basketball teams at Red Springs High School, but if the start each program has had is any indication, it's going to be another banner year for the Red Devils. When you talk about Red Springs basketball, what better place to start than with the girls team, which has developed into one of the state's top programs under the direction of Coach Eva Patterson-Heath.
A year ago the Lady Red Devils won their first 26 games of the season before falling to Mitchell In the Class 2-A state championship game.
Patterson-Heath has just two starters back from that club, but it appears as if the winning will continue with Red Springs out to a quick 7-0 start this season.
“We're really young, but we are returning five quality players from last year's team,” said Patterson-Heath. “My expectations are always high, but with this group being so young it can get a little frustrating at times.”
The two starters back from last year's squad are Marsha McRae and Shemia Campbell, both of whom are off to impressive starts this season.
McRae, a senior forward, is averaging 12.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game, while Campbell, a junior point guard, averages 10.5 points, seven assists and five steals per contest.
Also making a major contribution this year is Danyelle Carter, who came off the bench last season for the Lady Red Devils.
Carter, a junior forward, is scoring a modest 9.1 points point per game, but she's been dominant on the glass, pulling down nearly 11 rebounds per contest.
Two other players being counted on heavily this year by Patterson-Heath are Cassaundra Bell, who can play all three frontcourt positions and is the team's first player of the bench, and Temika McArthur, a standout from the junior varsity team last season who can fill in at either guard slot.
While Patterson-Heath is excited to be off to a 7-0 start with so many of her players adapting to new roles, she believes there is still plenty of room for improvement with her squad.
Taking care of the ball, decision-making, defense and free-throw shooting were aspects of the game that Patterson-Heath pointed to as areas that needed the most work.
Patterson-Heath also knows that her team, based on its success over the years, is looked at by most as the Tri-Six Conference favorite and that means the Lady Red Devils on most nights will get the opposition's best shot.
“They always try to make us the favorite,” laughed Patterson-Heath. “But I think Fairmont is going to have a nice team this year and you can never count out St. Pauls. And Clinton could be a real dark horse.”
While the girls team at Red Springs has garnered much of the attention, Glenn Patterson's boys program has been very good as well.
Last season, the Red Devils sprinted out to a 16-1 start before dropping four of their last five contests.
Patterson was a little apprehensive heading into this season, especially with eight seniors and all five starters from last year's team having moved on.
But the Red Springs boys are off to a 4-1 start to their season and again look like one of the favorites in the Tri-Six Conference.
“I'm surprised a little by our start because I lost eight seniors who could flat out play,” said Patterson. “But these kids worked very hard over the summer to maintain the level of competitiveness that we've enjoyed.”
Leading the way so far this season for the Red Devils has been Eric Conely, whose play has been nothing short of spectacular to date.
The 6-foot-3 senior post player is averaging better than 23 points and 15 rebounds per game and has recorded a double-double in every game this season.
“[Eric] has really stepped up for us so far this year,” said Patterson. “Once he gets the ball in the paint he's going to put the ball in the basket or get fouled. He's taken his game to another level.”
Also providing offensive firepower for a balanced Red Springs team have been Sammy Shaw (9.6 ppg) and Lee Hammonds (9.0 ppg).
But what Patterson has been most impressed with so far this season is his team's defense.
“The defensive effort has been tremendous,” said Patterson, whose club is averaging 18 steals per game. “We're not the most talented bunch, but we take our effort to the limit every night.”
Patterson views the Tri-Six race as being wide open this season, and he thinks his team has the players and the mindset to challenge for the title.
“It's hard to say who's going to win it. We just have to go out and keep working hard,” said Patterson. “people are counting us out because we lost so much, but I'm very pleased with my kids. They play the whole 32 minutes and give it their all.”
Chris Wallace can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 119 or by e-mail at [email protected]