Younger Lady Storm start solidly

Published 12:26 am Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Suffolk Lady Storm of 2014 are a much different team than the one that ruled the Virginia Cities Fall Basketball League last year, but they have still enjoyed some early success.

Suffolk improved to 2-1 last Saturday with a 35-18 win against Newport News at Creekside Recreation Center, and the local squad continues its season this morning against Hampton 2.

“We’re growing as a group,” Lady Storm coach Tom Lewis said. During the team’s one-loss championship season last year, “I had 10 players, and I could basically just let them play, whereas now I have some young, inexperienced players.”

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Stars like Briana Autrey, Makayla Dickens and Camary Harris have advanced beyond the top end of the league’s age range, which is eighth grade.

Though Lewis does not expect the team to be as dominant this year with a younger and less experienced roster, he said the Lady Storm have good potential.

Only eight girls came to the tryout he held before the 2014 season, but he gained five more after that, giving him a total of 13, seven of which are inexperienced.

There are returners, however, who have brought their experience to the court, including eighth-grader Neecole Brown.

“Her play has been stellar,” Lewis said.

In last Saturday’s win, Suffolk started the game with a 10-0 lead, with Brown getting six quick points. She finished with 10 points and led the team in rebounding

The Lady Storm have also benefited from the contributions of seventh-graders Makaylen Davis and Ashley Robertson.

Eighth-grader Nylah Young is new to the team.

“She is off the charts,” Lewis said.

Though Young is a reluctant post player, Lewis estimated her height at around 5-foot-11-inches, and she can knock down three-pointers. She led the Lady Storm with 16 points last Saturday, including two second-half three-pointers.

The coach had high praise for seventh-graders Tatianna Johnson and Lanae Stokes.

“Their performance on defense has been way, way above what I’ve expected,” he said. “They’re both new to this team, but I know I can kind of count on them to contribute.”

In coaching at this age level, Lewis does not focus as much on teaching offensive skills, but said, “If you can get your team to buy into playing defense a certain way, they’ll get more confidence on offense because they’ll have more possessions.”

There are two fifth-graders playing for Suffolk this year — Niyah Gaston and Amaya Allen, the latter of which scored her first two points last Saturday.

“Just the fact that she was able to score, I think it’s going to change her whole attitude about how she can contribute on the team,” Lewis said.

Another reason the going will be tougher for Suffolk this year is that “the competition is more even throughout the league,” Lewis said.

There are nine teams, and one of the most improved is the one from Virginia Beach, which handed the Lady Storm a 25-15 loss to open the 2014 season. Suffolk rebounded the next game for a 32-18 win against Hampton.

The Lady Storm face Hampton 2 today, with an 11 a.m. tip-off at Creekside Recreation Center.