DUBLIN — It’s a new era for the West Bladen girls varsity basketball team, with a new coach and new expectations.
Rick Rhoda has taken the helm from Pam Stephens and has begun putting in an entirely new offense and defense that he thinks will help make the Lady Knights more successful after a 12-13 season that saw West Bladen bow out of the state’s Class 2-A playoffs in the first round with a 49-20 loss to Currituck County.
The Lady Knights lost All-Four County Conference selections Delasia Richardson and Miriam Mendoza from that team.
“I don’t think anyone in our conference has seen the type of offense we’ll be running,” Rhoda said. “It’s the kind of offense that drives man coverage crazy.”
The Lady Knights are transitioning into a motion-based, non-stop offense. At the other end of the floor, West Bladen will be employing a man-to-man, help style of defense.
Rhoda knows he’s not only hoping his team catches on to a new style of play, but also that he’s working with a relatively young group of players.
“We’re definitely young,” he said. “We have a few juniors and several underclassmen, and we’re still trying to find the right chemistry.”
He added, however, that during a recent scrimmage jamboree, West Bladen fared pretty well.
“I was happy with how they competed,” Rhoda said. “But they still have a lot to learn.”
Rhoda said he’s got three starting positions pretty well nailed down, with senior Logan Autry running the point, junior Laikyn Pait at small forward and junior Jenna Dove at power forward.
“We’re still working on the other two positions, and that’s because we have a few players who may be good enough to start,” Rhoda said. “It’s something that could change from game to game, at least early.
“I think our bench will be pretty deep,” he added. “We’ve got some good, fast young players who can handle the ball well.”
Rhoda knows how difficult the conference will be, with the likes of East Bladen, Clinton and Midway being the teams to beat. But he’s still hopeful his Lady Knights will be more than just competitive.
“I think we can have some success and surprise some people along the way,” he said.
West Bladen opens its season on Dec. 1 at Purnell Swett.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.