First Posted: 1/15/2009
RED SPRINGS - Coach Eva Patterson-Heath can look back on last season's accomplishments and smile. After all, she won her 400th game and the 19-6 Lady Red Devils advanced deep into the state's Class 2-A playoffs before losing to Southwest Edgecombe one step short of the state finals.
But Patterson-Heath is hardly one to look back, and this season is a good reason why.
If Patterson-Heath even peeked back at that 2004-05 team, she'd see the loss of Danyelle Carter, The Robesonian's Player of the Year who averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds for Red Springs. She'd also see the loss of Shemia Campbell, the Fayetteville Observer's Player of the Year and a first-team All-Robeson County player who averaged 12 points and 8.3 rebounds - along with 6.8 assists and 4.8 steals.
But the forward-looking Patterson-Heath can see the return of 5-foot, 10-inch junior Cassaundra Bell at forward and 5-8 senior guard Temeka McArthur. Bell averaged 7.2 points and 3.1 rebounds last season, while McArthur averaged four points and 1.3 assists.
And Patterson Heath thinks her team will still be a threat for the Southeastern Conference title.
“There are still a lot of questions; we'll be a different-looking team this season,” Patterson-Heath said. “But we do have some bright spots and should be able to contend.”
There's also a promising newcomer in Tevonia Williams, a 6-1 senior transfer from Purnell Swett, that Patterson-Heath is high on.
“She has a very good inside game, but she's still learning how to use it,” Patterson-Heath said.
The Lady Red Devils open their season Tuesday at Southern Lee High.
The Lady Bulldogs put together a 12-11 campaign last season, but put up some classic battles against good Red Springs and Fairmont teams along the way.
And this season, the nucleus of that team is back for coach Mike Ratley - that includes 5-5 senior Nikita Grant, an All-Robeson County first-teamer who averaged 14.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game last season; and 5-6 senior Shekera Dunham. For the Lady Bulldogs, nine players from the 2004-05 team are back.
Ratley will also be counting on newcomers Courtney Robinson, a 5-3 guard, and Charli Allen, a 6-2 sophomore.
St. Pauls opened its season Thursday with a heartbreaking 54-53 loss to East Columbus, and will travel to Purnell Swett on Tuesday.
After a disappointing 2004-05 campaign, they finished 3-18 and winless in the Southeastern Conference, the South Robeson Lady Mustangs are looking to turn it around this year.
Although they lost Tevonia Williams, an all-county honorable mention selection, the Mustangs have a key returnee in senior guard Veronica Brown, an all-county second-team pick.
Coach Larry Inman will have his hands full as he tries to bring stability and consistency to a team that hasn’t achieved much recent success.
South Robeson is undefeated after two games, the latest of which was a 59-50 win over Purnell Swett on Friday night. Brown had 19 points in the win over the Rams.
Coming off the heels of its first ever Tri-Six Conference Championship, the Fairmont Lady Tornadoes are looking to build off the success of last year’s team.
Although they lost several key members of last season’s squad, which finished 18-7 and advanced to the second round of the state’s playoffs, the Lady Tornadoes have several returning players and newcomers ready to fill the void.
With the losses of Gina Grimsley, a 2004-05 first team all-county selection and Associated Press all-state nominee, and Shante McNair, a second-team all-county selection, Fairmont will be led by Monique Floyd, another second-team all-county selection, and Shania Powell, who recieved an honorable mention.
In order to successfully defend his team’s conference title, coach Travis Kemp will look to get adequate production from his team’s supporting cast.
TWO RIVERS CONFERENCE
The biggest challenge for the Lady Pirates this season will be dealing with inexperience, particularly at the point-guard position.
Head coach Danny Graham led Lumberton to a 16-10 record and the second round of the state playoffs last year, but only one starter, Kayla Hayes, remains from that team. This year's roster features little starting experience, but Graham feels there is a good deal of talent.
“The biggest key will be how well the young players learn our system and adapt to it,” Graham said. “We don't have a proven point guard. That could hurt us.”
Lumberton lost All-Robeson County first-teamer and Associated Press all-state nominee Christy Freeman to graduation. The All-Two Rivers Conference guard averaged 14.3 points and 4.6 assists last season.
Other key returnees for the Pirates include senior center Tiffany Lamb, senior Shanice Dalton, and Diamond Foster. All three earned playing time last year without cracking the starting rotation.
The Lady Pirates play Tuesday, hosting Scotland County.
Second-year coach Donnie Carter hopes his Rams squad can improve on last year's 4-19 record, but they will miss guard Whitney Hunt, who now plays for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Hunt was a first-team All-Robeson County and All-two Rivers Conference selection last year, averaging 10.7 points, three assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Returning to the Rams lineup this season will be Safiya Ghaffar, a sophomore guard who averaged six points and three assists per game as a freshman. Senior Erin Hammonds also returns, and newcomer Gwen McMillan, at 5-11, should give the Rams more size in the post.
Purnell Swett got off to a rocky start on the season, with a tough 89-15 loss Wednesday night and a 59-50 loss to South Robeson Friday. Ghaffar led the Lady Rams in both games with nine and 19 points respectively.
Next for Purnell Swett, the Rams will travel to Scotland County on Monday before taking on St. Pauls at home Tuesday.
– Staff writers W. Curt Vincent, Dennis Pillion and Willis Jacobson contributed to this preview.