Girls basketball teams need bigs to be big-time


The Ashley girls basketball team won the Mideastern Conference this past season, but bowed out of the state playoffs in the first round. (Photo by Photo by Paul Stephen)


For the Ashley and Laney high school girls basketball programs, regular-season wins are commonplace. Both are ready to do some more winning in February and March.

The Screaming Eagles and Bucs are two of the area’s most consistent local teams. Only once in the past three years has either program won fewer than six conference games. 

But postseason success has been hard to come by. Last year, Ashley won the conference, then got upset in its playoff opener. Laney won its first-round contest, then scored only 29 points in a loss to Cary. 

In fact, since 2009, no team from New Hanover County has advanced past the second round. Ashley and Laney both hope to change that this season. Both teams won 20 games last season and return the majority of their rosters. 

“We definitely want to be the best in Wilmington,” Ashley coach Adrienne Gale said. “But also be the best in the East. Be able to say we can go to Fayetteville and take down those teams and go to Raleigh and take down those teams and be in that level.”

But to win against powerful teams like South View and Millbrook requires size. The best teams in the state traditionally have at least one true post threat. Last year’s East Regional featured Millbrook, with three players 6 feet or taller, and South View, with 6-foot-2 forward Sidney Cook.

Laney coach Sherri Tynes knows what the competition looks like at that level: she coached teams to the regional in 2007 and 2008, part of a three-year period when a team from Wilmington made a regional.

“They’ve heard those stories of going to regionals, and it certainly is a goal of theirs,” Tynes said. “But they know it’s a steep hill to climb even with what we have coming back.”

That’s part of the reason that both coaches are excited: both have legitimate post players coming back. 

“We’re not the tallest of teams but we do have some decent height,” Tynes said. “And hopefully that’ll pay off for us. I feel that way about all our positions.”

Laney’s duo of senior Amber Doniere and junior Paulette Addison give the Bucs the height to both defend and score. Doniere, who signed to play at Appalachian State next season, said the Bucs are confident in their ability to stack up.

“We’ve been playing together for a while,” Doniere said. “We’ve played against some pretty good competition and we’ve done pretty well and had some success, so I think we can bang with anybody.”

Ashley might not have the same height, but it’s no less confident. Neither of the Screaming Eagles’ forwards, Felicity Havens and Morgan Davis, are 6-foot, but both have impressive length that makes Ashley’s half court zone lethal for opponents. 

Havens is also a proven scorer, and Davis has impressed her coach with a newfound willingness to attack the basket.

“This would probably be the next best chance of being able to compete with those bigs, just because of our length,” Gale said. “We can compete down low and get into the passing lanes. People are going to have a tough time matching up with us.”

And the Screaming Eagles still have bad memories after a last-second shot against conference rival Rose upended them in the first round of the playoffs.

“That was the hardest season to get over since I’ve been here,” Gale said. “Just because we feel like we had unfinished business.”

Still, no one knows if all those factors will be enough for a major postseason improvement. But both teams say they’re ready for the test.

“That’s always one of the goals for us is to compete with not only people locally but everywhere,” Doniere said. “I don’t think we’re necessarily there right now, but by the end of the year I think we’ll be there.”

FIVE TO WATCH

 

Amber Doniere, 6’0”, Sr., Laney: Doniere signed with Appalachian State before the season began. She’s one of the area’s best because of her versatility and variety of scoring moves. She was Laney’s leading scorer and rebounder last year.

 

Felicity Havens, 5’11”, Jr., Ashley: Havens is a dynamite scorer who still has a ton of potential. She can get baskets in a variety of ways and her length and speed helps hold Ashley’s pressure defense together.

 

Melissa Macon, 5’7”, Sr., East Bladen: Macon’s got a sweet shooting touch and she’ll be relied on to continue East Bladen’s power in the Waccamaw Conference.

 

Kapria Pressley, 6’0”, Jr., New Hanover: Pressley is yet another long, athletic forward in this area, and she gives New Hanover the size and defense it needs to hang with Laney and Ashley. She’s also shown the ability to score.

 

Jenna Watts, 5’5”, Sr., Whiteville: Watts helped lead the Wolfpack to a 19-5 overall record last year, averaged double-figures in scoring and led the team in assists. Whiteville’s offense was a well-greased machine last year and Watts’ distribution was a big reason why.