Lady Knights to build on progress

W. Curt Vincent -

Kenny Armstrong | Bladen Journal West Bladen’s Laikyn Pait led the Lady Knights in scoring and rebounding.

DUBLIN — The Lady Knights finished the season with an 8-17 overall mark and 5-9 in the Four County Conference. But for first-year coach Rick Rhoda, the success of West Bladen can’t be measured in the wins column.

“I watched film from a scrimmage in mid-November and compared it to one of our final games and was amazed at our progress,” he said. “So, yes, I am pleased with our progress … I must admit I expected more wins and we should have had more wins, but there’s no denying the progress.”

Part of that progress comes in the fact that the Lady Knights drastically improved at the free throw line, from about 40 percent in the first half to better than 60 percent in the second half. Also, Rhoda said many of his girls learned to dribble with their left hands much better through the season.

“We also picked up our scoring, particularly with our wins,” he said. “With the first half of our wins, we scored 39 points per win and, with the last half of wins, we scored over 54 points per win.”

Along with the team progress, there were some individual accolades for Rhoda to pass out.

Among them were:

— Laikyn Pait being one rebound away from averaging a double-double for the season. She was second in the conference in rebounding and seventh in scoring.

“Here’s a fun fact: Laikyn is second in rebounding among all Class 2-A shooting forwards in North Carolina,” Rhoda said.

— Logan Autry was fourth in the conference in assists with 3.4 per game.

— Jerena Purdie was fourth in the conference in blocks with 1.0 per game.

— Erica McKoy was sixth among freshmen in the conference in scoring with right at 4.0 per game.

“We expect a lot out of her next year,” Rhoda said.

He added that, with no seniors on the team this season, there are high hopes for next season.

“Although, we have made much progress there is still a long ways to go,” he said. “We will work on tougher defense, although we have gotten much better. We will definitely continue to work on ball-handling and passing. There are some fundamental and skill stuff we will continue to work on.

“I think that our girls will be a little more mature and a little more comfortable with pressure next year,” he added.

Rhoda had some other highlights from the season that gives him hope for next year.

“My sophomores, Patience Parker and Elizabeth Allbright, contributed big minutes for tasks like defense and rebounding,” he said. “In our final contest with Midway, Akira Grimes started to show that she is a scoring threat. I expect her to be much more of a threat next season.”

Wrapping up the season, Rhoda gave props to the jayvee team.

“I think that, so far, things are going well. The jayvee team is progressing with the offense and parts of the defense,” he said. “Winning the conference means a lot to the coaching staff and to the kids. I think Coach Joe Lewis did a fine job teaching parts of the system.

“I would also add that Sharon Baxley has been invaluable to the program and things would have been a lot tougher without her,” Rhoda added.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

Kenny Armstrong | Bladen Journal West Bladen’s Laikyn Pait led the Lady Knights in scoring and rebounding. Armstrong | Bladen Journal West Bladen’s Laikyn Pait led the Lady Knights in scoring and rebounding.

W. Curt Vincent

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