Promising Lady Cavs suffer first loss

Published 8:56 pm Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Lakeland High School girls’ basketball team full of youthful potential fell for the first time this season with a narrow loss on Tuesday after opening the season with three straight wins.

Lady Cavaliers coach Brandey Blunt tallied up five wins total that the team achieved last season, and it underscored the significant improvement that this year’s team has already exhibited.

Lakeland High School sophomore center Alasia Lee, grabbing the ball, has been consistently improving this season, contributing to her team's 3-1 start. (Melissa Glover photo)

Lakeland High School sophomore center Alasia Lee, grabbing the ball, has been consistently improving this season, contributing to her team’s 3-1 start. (Melissa Glover photo)

But it is a young squad that needs to work at being consistent. Visiting Oscar Smith High School was able to leave on Tuesday with a 48-45 win.

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“We went 5-for-17 from the free throw line; you do the math, and we lose by three,” Blunt said. “We usually at least shoot 50 percent from the line, which is not good, but it would have been enough.”

She said some missed key shots down the stretch also played a role in the loss.

But there were bright spots for the Lady Cavs, including sophomore center Alasia Lee, who led her team with 15 points to go with 12 rebounds.

“She’s really stepping up. She’s consistently getting better,” Blunt said. “I think she’s really getting comfortable, and she’s starting to come into her own.”

Freshman guard Kayla Barnes added 14 points and four steals.

While last season’s team struggled, with its run ending in the first round of the conference tournament, it had some notable impact players who are gone now due to graduation, including point guard Kyiesha Barrett, forward Logan Reid and guard Nijel Smith

But despite those losses, Blunt has reasons to be optimistic about the 2014-15 Lady Cavaliers. They are enjoying a fresh injection of talent that has come up from the junior varsity team and have already exhibited a lot of heart.

“I think we’re going to do OK as far as our out-of-conference play. Our conference is pretty stacked,” Blunt said. “I think we’ll remain competitive, because that’s just what these girls have come out of the gate with.”

Now they must work on the little things like decision-making, free throws and executing plays on offense, the coach said.

She added the team is defensive-minded, and if it can at least limit opponents to the 50-point range, then it has a chance to win games.

One way the Lady Cavaliers have shown their heart to their coach is by how well they have played without the girl Blunt had expected to be the team’s primary star — freshman point guard Makayla Dickens.

Blunt said Dickens suffered a high ankle sprain before the season began, and it is unknown if she will be back this season. The team relied a lot on her leadership, talent and skill in the offseason.

“She was our primary ball handler, she was one of our best shooters, she anticipates well, so she was pretty good on defense,” Blunt said. “She rebounds well, she’s just an all-around player.”

The coach said, “Whenever we get her back, I think that’s going to be a difference-maker in our game.”

But her teammates are showing she will not have to shoulder the whole load when she returns.

Blunt cited Alasia Lee and freshman guard Brianna Copeland as standouts on offense. She also praised returning guard, junior D’Jannay Patterson, for her consistency.

Kayla Barnes is someone Lakeland needs on the floor, the coach said, noting she is a finisher on offense and can be a great defender but must avoid foul trouble.

Highlighting the excitement in the community that surrounds this year’s team, Blunt said, “We’re actually getting some people at our games now, and we haven’t really had that.”

Lakeland (3-1) visits Western Branch High School tonight and Nansemond River High School (4-0) on Friday.