The East Clarendon High School girls basketball team brings back a lot of experience from last year, which it has shown off in spades in its 5-0 start. As always, Talaysia Cooper leads the pack after scoring 26 points per game and averaging a …
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The East Clarendon High School girls basketball team brings back a lot of experience from last year, which it has shown off in spades in its 5-0 start. As always, Talaysia Cooper leads the pack after scoring 26 points per game and averaging a double-double last year as a freshman, but the Lady Wolverines are about to face some tests without her.
Cooper tweaked her knee a bit in East Clarendon's last game, so she'll miss a few games. Head coach Mike Lowder hopes that opens the door for some other players to step up and produce.
EC has gotten the production it's expected from returning forwards Rhamey Floyd - who averaged a double-double of her own last year - and Valencia Garris - who leads the team with 90 rebounds after missing last season with an injury - but Lowder is looking for some new players to fill the void that Cooper leaves behind.
"It's going to be very valuable to us," said Lowder. "We're going to have a lot of valuable minutes with some kids that wouldn't typically get minutes in the heat of the battle other than just the last part of the game. I'm looking forward to these kids getting able to play right off the bat, and hopefully we'll be able to do enough to pull off three more wins."
After Thursday's game against Benthune-Bowman, the Lady Wolverines have rematches with Lake Marion and Lake City before opening up Region VII-2A play at Andrews. Lowder wants to see players like senior forward Alicia Wilson, who has been excellent on the boards this year, sophomore point guard Amya Rush and Nykendra Mcleveen step up and take over some of the scoring Cooper provides.
"We've gotta find three players to score 25 points in order for us to stay right where we are without Talaysia, so somebody has to step up and score outside of Rhamey and Valencia," said the EC head coach. "If not, we're going from averaging 65 a game to into the mid-30s and you won't win."
One thing that will make it easier for those newer offensive contributors to succeed is having Garris around this year. After missing the entire season last year, she has been instrumental to the Lady Wolverines' early success. She's had two double-digit scoring performances and had 24 rebounds on Saturday against Lake Marion to bring her total to 90. In addition to her post presence, she can also step in as another ball distributor with strong passing skills.
"The other girls like having her down there because she's so solid. She's not going to have the ball taken from her," said Lowder. "She's very unselfish. She's got almost as many assists as Talaysia right now, believe it or not. She's right there and distributes the ball. And the beauty about Valencia is that she steps out and plays the perimeter for us too, so that helps with the ball handling too."
Cooper's injury should only be a short-term problem for a team that still has sky-high expectations. Cooper, Floyd and Garris have already won a 1A state title, and the team was a perfect 14-0 in region play and made it to the Final Four last season in its first year at the 2A level. Lowder says his expectations remain the same this year with so much returning talent.
"I think the goals are high. I don't think the girls expect anything less than another Lower-State championship appearance," said Lowder. "If Talaysia can play, if Valencia stays healthy and Rhamey stays healthy and some of these other kids come along. Am I saying we're going to be 14-0 in the region again? Eh, maybe not, but we did it last year, first year in 2A, and we have mostly the same team back.
"Expectations are high and it's going to be disappointing if we don't make it to another Lower State championship."
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