Lady Chargers look to grow in experience

Published 12:19 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Central High School’s varsity girls basketball team is coming off of a difficult 1-17 season and the path forward will likely continue to be challenging, but the young Lady Chargers have pieces in place to take steps forward during their 2018-19 campaign.

Six players return from Central’s 2017-18 team, including three starters, but elite opponents in the James River District (JRD) returned a great deal this year.

“The teams that were at the top of the district last year pretty much have most of their major key players back from those squads,” Lady Chargers Head Coach Scott Wilson said. “Our team on paper is probably the second-most inexperienced varsity team. The most experienced varsity player we have, this’ll be their second year, so we’re still relatively inexperienced.”

He noted Central features five new players at the varsity level this season, with four coming up from the junior varsity level and one being new to Central’s program altogether.

“We’re a little behind right now because of the experience factor, but we’re going to look to improve each game throughout the season to see how we rank with the teams at the top and use the regular season to prepare for the postseason,” Wilson said.

He highlighted how the JRD is full of Virginia High School League Class 2 teams, a classification above the one Central occupies. The Lady Chargers taking on teams from larger schools should challenge Central significantly and put it in a good position to compete in the regional tournament and — if it advances — the state tournament. Central will face only Class 1 opponents in those tourneys.

“So we’re just going to see where we’re at throughout the regular season, get better each game, and the key is going to be scoring points, which was a factor for us last year, just not being able to score enough points,” Wilson said. “Defense has kept us in the game, (but) it’s going to come down to putting the ball in the basket.”

Central’s roster this season is dotted by three seniors, four sophomores and four juniors, though two of the juniors are looking to do their senior coursework and graduate at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

The Lady Chargers will miss their two graduated starters, guard Zhalen Rainey and center Megan Dech, the latter of which earned a 2017-18 All-Region 1B second-team selection. But Wilson expects his team to benefit greatly from the three returning starters: point guard DaJaMeka White-Freeman, forward Aaliyah Alexander and senior forward Haley Hayer.

“White-Freeman and Alexander were freshmen last year, so they got that freshman year under their belt, and they were my two leading scorers from a year ago, so hopefully they can take it up to the next level,” Wilson said. “Hopefully besides those three starters, we’ll have other players step up. We’re a pretty good defensive squad. I’m curious to see who’s going to step up and score some points for me this season.”

He affirmed that his team is lacking in significant height this year, so it will be depending on its speed.

The Lady Chargers were set to open their season Tuesday at Goochland High School, and they host Buckingham County High School on Friday at 7 p.m.

Wilson pointed to Goochland and Buckingham as two of the most experienced teams in the JRD last year.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m., Central visits Cumberland County High School, getting an idea of its competition this year in Region 1B.