DUBLIN — The Lady Knights saw several seniors graduate from last season’s roster and will be hoping a handful of returning players can gel with a host of newcomers — including a new coach in Brian McCleney.
West Bladen finished 12-15 overall last season and 7-7 in the former Four County Conference. They lost i the first round of the NCHSAA Class 2-A playoffs to Southwest Edgecombe, 74-41.
But at the helm of that team were seniors like Laikyn Pait, Jenna Dover, Jerena Purdie, Akira Grimes and Logan Autry — and junior Erika McKoy transferred to East Bladen. They, along with coach Rick Rhoda, are now gone.
“The loses from last year’s team will be major, not only in terms of scoring but leadership,” McCleney said. “All of those ladies were important parts to the team and their spots will not be easy to fill. But this gives some of our returning players a chance to step up in those situations.”
Expected to see a good piece of action are senior Patience Parker, senior Elizabeth Allbright, senior Mikayla Winebarger, senior Conner Brisson, senior Indiyah Williams and Chasitty Lacey.
“Kasee Singletary and Lexie Corrothers from the jayvee team got some varsity experience late last season and we are looking for these young ladies to have a major impact on the team this year,” McCleney said. “Connor Brisson and Mikayla Winebarger have show great strides in the preseason.”
Although there may be a deficit of varsity experience for the Lady Knights, McCleney said “our main strength is speed at the guard positions.”
With West Bladen now competing in the new 10-team Three Rivers Conference, McCleney sees some familiar foes shooting for the top of the list.
”East Bladen, as always, will be a main contender,” he said. “East Columbus and Red Springs also had tremendous seasons last year and have a good core of their team returning.
“Hopefully we can compete at a high level in the new league,” he added. “With 18 conference games it will be a grind. Hopefully we can build on last year’s season just as last year’s team improved from the previous year.”
The Lady Knights open the season Tuesday by hosting Wilmington Hoggard at 6 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.