Lady Warriors start strong

Published 8:55 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A more seasoned, deeper Nansemond River High School girls’ basketball team got its season off to a positive start on Tuesday night with a 70-32 win over visiting Grassfield High School.

Nansemond River High School sophomore guard Tashira Burch drives against visiting Grassfield High School during the Lady Warriors' 70-32 season-opening win on Tuesday evening.

Nansemond River High School sophomore guard Tashira Burch drives against visiting Grassfield High School during the Lady Warriors’ 70-32 season-opening win on Tuesday evening.

“I told them in the locker room that I thought they had great effort,” Lady Warriors coach R. Calvin Mason Sr. said. “It wasn’t always great execution.”

But he said it is the first game of the season, and he doesn’t expect them to play like it is January or February.

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“We’ve still got to do a better job of communicating,” he said, but he noticed clear improvement on defense and clear development as a team overall.

“You can see the growth from one year to the next year, because it’s basically the same starters, except for (Briana) Autrey, but the maturity that they were able to show tonight — we did things tonight that we couldn’t do all last year,” Mason said. “That one year of experience, it’s just made a big difference.”

In the 2013-14 season, Nansemond River finished 12-12 overall with the season ending in the first round of the regional playoffs.

The Lady Warriors return most of their team from last year, and Mason said he is cautiously optimistic for how they will perform this season.

“I know we’re a better team,” he said. “How much we’ve improved, that’s still to be determined, but I know we’re a better team. Briana alone makes us better, just being a good athlete. She’s a really great athlete, and she’s really fit in well, and she works hard in practice.”

Autrey was a bright star for the Nansemond River junior varsity team last year, averaging 30 points per game.

She said playing in Tuesday night’s game was a lot tougher than playing on the JV level, but she was pleased to be there.

“I was just excited to finally be on varsity,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain the feeling.”

She finished with 12 points, three assists, three steals and a block.

Mason said he thinks she has a chance to be one of his foremost standouts. Others are expected to be junior forward Aneka Yelverton and junior center Sabree Clegg.

Clegg led the Lady Warriors on Tuesday with 16 points, and Yelverton had 10.

Mason said Clegg has to score inside for NR.

“We’re going to shoot jump shots, but she’s one of the few post players we actually have,” he said, noting she needs to avoid foul trouble because the team needs her on the floor.

The Lady Warriors must also rebound well and not depend on Clegg to get them all, Mason said.

Like last year, senior guard Laura Ortiz will come off the bench as the sixth woman, continuing to be what her coach called a steadying influence. Against Grassfield, she had 13 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block.

Sophomore guard/forward Daijah Norris and sophomore guard Cassidy Simmons provide key contributions in the starting lineup, and sophomore guard Tashira Burch gives Nansemond River depth coming off the bench.

The Lady Warriors (1-0, 0-0) host Great Bridge High School on Friday.