Lady Warriors used offseason to gain experience as a team

Published 8:52 pm Friday, November 26, 2010

Nansemond River senior Cierra Mobley shoots a jumper versus Warwick in a scrimmage Tuesday evening. Mobley’s one of five seniors on the Lady Warrior roster this season.

Nansemond River’s girls basketball team reached the Eastern Region Tournament in each of R. Calvin Mason’s first three years as head coach.

Last season, the Lady Warriors were a young team who competed well versus anyone in some games, but struggled at times to a mid-pack finish in the Southeastern District. By district tournament time, with a season’s worth of experience, the Lady Warriors still came within one hoop of an upset win and a regional spot in the quarterfinals of the district tournament.

With a roster made up mostly of returners who saw lots of playing time, but is still younger than normal for a varsity squad, a full offseason of working and practicing as a team should do the Lady Warriors a lot of good.

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“We begin our offseason work in March. We go right through the summer. We take most of August off and then get started again in the fall,” Mason said.

Throughout his four seasons in charge, Mason takes pride and instills that same intensity, in defense, full-court pressure and up-tempo games .

“Last year, we never put the whole playbook in. There was so much we couldn’t do. Now there’s so much more we can do as a team. We’re more athletic and we’ll do a lot more full-court-wise this year,” Mason said.

For being young, the coach placed a lot of responsibility on his returning players.

“I explained to them at the end of last year, I’m not going to coerce or beg you guys to put in the work, the conditioning, throughout the offseason. I told them they have to make the commitment themselves and I’ve gotten a very good response,” Mason said.

“I have a core group who came all the time. Some of the girls never missed a session. That takes dedication,” Mason said.

The Lady Warriors can keep building from the basket out with 6-foot-2 junior Delisia Sharpe.

Sharpe led the Lady Warriors in points and rebounds as a sophomore and was named one of ESPN’s top 100 sophomores.

“Most teams don’t have someone who can provide what (Sharpe) provides for us in the post,” Mason said.

Last season, Sharpe had to create a lot of her own plays and points, largely with offensive rebounds.

Mason thinks the Lady Warriors around Sharpe can make this season better, for Sharpe and the team, in two ways.

First, familiarity and better execution means Sharpe can get the ball more often in the flow of the Lady Warrior offense. Second, improvement all the way around would mean an opponent can’t focus as much attention on Sharpe.

In the backcourt, Ashante Humphries started at point guard as a freshman last season. She’s still working her way back after needing shoulder surgery.

“Even with the injury, she was still at conditioning as much as she could be and doing what she could do,” Mason said.

“She grew up tremendously as a freshman,” Mason said. “Her maturity will show this year on the floor.”

Senior guard Briana McClain is a four-year varsity player who knows exactly what Mason expects, especially when it comes to defense and intensity.

“She’s just a good leader. She’s one who never missed a conditioning session over the summer,” Mason said.

Mason projects Janel Cannon, at guard, and Jasmine Arthur and Sonnae Gibson as forwards to make big jumps from last season. Arthur and Gibson came up from JV to varsity in midseason last year.

“We’re still a young team, but now we’re a young team that’s been through same battles together,” Mason said.