Small Lady Cavs team still optimistic

Published 8:40 pm Friday, November 23, 2012

The Lakeland varsity girls' basketball team gets ready for the upcoming season under the direction of head coach Brandey Blunt, center, during Monday afternoon's preseason practice at Lakeland High School.

The Lakeland varsity girls’ basketball team may be small in number, but that does not mean they are small in heart.

Last year, the Lady Cavaliers began the season with nine players on the roster, and the number shrunk as the year went on. Returning head coach Brandey Blunt alluded to this as she commented on Lakeland’s recent history.

“We haven’t been doing well for a while,” she said. “I think we won one game last year. That was against Oscar Smith, and I actually had to finish the game with four players because I only had six.”

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Two players left the team for personal reasons and one got injured. A player was brought up from the junior varsity team, but then another varsity player got hurt.

“It was one of those seasons,” Blunt said.

This year the team again has nine players, but Blunt is focused on factors that will help avoid a repeat of last season. One of those factors is enforcing a superior level of conditioning.

“I told them the other day, I said, ‘I have to prepare you guys to be able to play six full quarters,’” Blunt said. “’So, yeah, normal teams that have 12, 13 players, yeah, they have a hard practice, but it’s not as difficult as it would be for a team of nine.’”

“I just told them, four weeks of full practices and by that fourth week, they should be in enough shape to be able to play almost another half a game after they play their first game.”

Blunt was thinking of the potential issues like illness or injury or absence that could reduce the roster again. She knew that her girls would need to be significantly more fit than last year, when simply being in decent shape was not enough once the roster had only six names on it.

“So, I made that a point this year to make sure that I conditioned them enough that they last throughout the entire season,” Blunt said.

Two other reasons Blunt feels optimistic about this season have to do with how this group of girls has come together and the early leadership shown by her older players.

“This group has a chemistry that I think is going to be surprising to me and to a lot of people,” she said. “I have a couple of new faces, a couple of girls from (junior varsity) last year. And my seniors and my upperclassmen, they’re just ready, they’re ready to take on the responsibility — the leadership is there.”

One of those leaders is senior guard Quaesha Knight.

“Quaesha was the leading scorer for the team last year,” Blunt said. “She averaged about 16 points a game. She got hurt during midseason, but she was a very, very important part, and I believe we probably would have won a few more games just with her alone (being) with us.”

Another key senior is forward Chardonnay Patterson.

“She’s been on varsity since 10th grade, and she’s been playing very well, as well,” Blunt said.

Knight and Patterson are the two team captains this year as chosen by the team and the coaching staff.

“They were pretty much just ready to do it, and prior to us picking them to be captains, they’ve been taking on responsibilities, leading practice, getting it started, motivating the team, and just being very positive and leading by example,” Blunt said.

Coach Blunt is also expecting a high level of play from junior point guard Kyiesha Barrett, who has been starting on the varsity team since ninth grade.

The biggest challenge that Blunt anticipates for Lakeland will be avoiding its tendency to dwell on its mistakes. Instead, the team will need to learn from them and quickly move on.

Effort in preseason practices has pleased Blunt.

“They have all been working extremely hard in practice in preparation for the season,” she said. “They are excited, and we’re all just anxious to get it going on Tuesday.”

Lakeland will host Hickory on Tuesday, Nov. 27 to open the season.