PROSPERITY — The Mid-Carolina High School junior varsity girls basketball team exceeded their coaches’ expectations in 2013-14, posting an undefeated record.
MCHS JV Head Coach Charlene Pitts said a well-rounded group of players bought into her team-first approach.
“The players got along exceptionally well. I think the key to winning is to get your players to buy into the TEAM CONCEPT,” Pitts said. “I don’t care what team sport you play, they all become an important part. Even the players that do not play a lot help a team become who they really are.”
She relied upon the leadership and intangibles of sophomore point guard Tori Caldwell who started for Pitts in 2012-13.
“Tori is an awesome student and athlete,” Pitts said. “She held the team together at all times and was constantly trying to come up with fixes when a play did not work.”
With Caldwell’s leadership, her players learned the deliberate offense that relied upon a plethora of set plays to work.
The team was led in scoring by eighth grader Gracen Hester, who averaged 9.2 points per game. Three guard Alex Fulmer chipped in five points per game, crashed the boards and played tough defense.
Pitts rotated three girls through her four and five spots, Jamarrian Abney, Atiajah Wallace and Charlsy Traylor. Traylor led the team in rebounds, averaging seven per game with a high total 18 in one game.
Abney averaged three points per game and was solid on the glass, while Wallace led the team with blocked shots at 14.
At sixth-woman role, she came off the bench and helped Traylor and Abney.
“Each night a different player stepped up to help us get the win,” Pitts said. “It was not always the person who scored the most, sometimes it was defense and sometimes it was rebounding.”
On defense the Lady Rebels relied upon full court presses, one a 2-2-1 full court zone press and the other a 1-2-1 full court press.
“With the 1-2-1-1 it would put pressure on the person throwing the ball in and then we would trap once the ball got inbounds,” Pitts said. “We ran mostly zone defenses using 2-1-2 and 3-2. We had to go to man-to-man very little.”
She said the girls had faith in one another and that trust factor helped them win a lot of close games.
The JV Lady Rebels won five games by three points or less. In their game against Abbeville the game was tied with six seconds remaining.
Pitts and her assistant coaches set up an inbounds play that went the length of the court to Gracen Hester. Hester was fouled with 2 seconds on the clock and hit both free throws to help MCHS JV to a thrilling victory.
Another key resource for Pitts was her son, Evan, an assistant coach who helped out along with college student Lori Fulmer, a MCHS athlete now playing shortstop for Lees-McRae.
Pitts said it was an adjustment having her son on her staff but that she loved working with both of them.
“I loved having Evan out there working with me and the girls. I actually got to see a different side of him. He has expressed an interest in coaching since he graduated from Newberry College,” Pitts said. “Even though he never played basketball in school, when he was in younger grades he came to practice with me and by age ten understood the plays and why we did things the way we did. This year, he helped out a lot and brought different point of view. Sometimes he would see things that I didn’t actually see. It is always good to have another set of eyes.”
She had no idea at the beginning of the year the girls had a perfect year ahead of them.
Pitts said she saw potential from early practices but it was not until the middle of the season that she began to think this could be an undefeated team.
Pitts anticipates the girls’ success to carry over to the varsity level.
Four players were added to the varsity roster for the finale against Newberry and for the playoffs: sophomores Tori Caldwell and Jamarrian Abney, freshman Charlsy Traylor and 8th grader Gracen Hester.
It’s likely all of her starters will move up to varsity and play for Coach Gary Wilbanks next year.
She figures on having four returning players but anticipates reloading with some solid Mid-Carolina Middle School players from Coach Mike Schaeffer.