Scott's Branch senior Bennett leads the charge for young Lady Eagles


The Scott's Branch girls basketball team has taken their lumps this season.

Facing larger competition, the Lady Eagles didn't earn a win until the end of December, but they're starting to string some things together. They opened region play with wins over Johnsonville and East Clarendon last week, stringing together their first three victories of the season.

Leading the way was Rosandra Bennett, their most experienced veteran on a young squad that's learning to play together.

Last week, Bennett had a pair of double-doubles as the Lady Eagles opened region with some positivity. Her performance also helped her earn recognition as the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.

"It feels good to have the Scott's Branch community supporting me," Bennett said of the honor. "It's my first time being nominated for something like this. It just feels really good."

Bennett has been tasked with carrying a heavy load this season. As the most experienced player, she has often been tasked with helping her younger teammates learn the ropes of varsity basketball on top of her traditional role as a player. Early in the season, Bennett had to move out from the post to become the team's primary ball-handler, and she made the change with pride. Head coach Lucinda Stukes is proud of the way she's always done whatever the team needs.

"Rosa has been big for us, even in those non-region games when we were getting our heads beat in by those 3A and 4A teams," Stukes said. "I know that she's capable of it, it's about her teammates knowing the plan and understanding the task at hand. Rosa, she's just been big for us. I'm happy she's growing into her own.

"Rosa is vocal; she wants to see them get up and play and do the right thing. Her leadership is integral for what we want to do with our program as we rebuild. I appreciate her leadership."

Bennett feels the weight of expectations, but she's always ready to step to the plate for her teammates.

"As a senior, I feel like it's my job to step up and be a team leader," Bennett said. "I just want to give everybody the opportunity to show out on the court. I take pride in that.

"There's a lot of pressure being the veteran athlete on the team because most of us haven't played together, so we really had to start over and build. I feel like if I don't do well in a game, it might affect everyone else. I don't want to say I have to do well for everyone to do well, but if I don't, it'll affect my teammates. It's a lot of pressure, but I feel like I'm handling it well."

While the Lady Eagles struggled early in the season, Bennett has always been confident in her teammates. She carried that mindset into their slate of games last week.

"I had to keep a positive mindset because I really want my team to make it to state this year," Bennett said. "All the teams that we played before region was just helping us prepare for region. We started pretty strong, and I hope we continue to do so."

Scott's Branch dominated their region opener against Johnsonville, cruising to a 50-17 win. Bennett finished with her first double-double of the week, racking up 18 points and 10 rebounds.

"We just had to talk on defense, know where everyone was at and just making good plays," Bennett said. "We had to lock in with each other to play together."

On Friday, the Lady Eagles hosted East Clarendon for the first of their two annual rivalry games. The matchup was back and forth until Scott's Branch broke away down the stretch. Bennett was electric again, scoring 10 points to go with 13 rebounds.

"We had to control the pace of the game," Bennett said. "We just had to stay calm throughout and continue to make good shots, grab rebounds and just bring the ball down court. We had to play our way, not the way of the crowd or the other team.

"The message (to younger teammates) was just to go out, have fun and play ball. Each of my teammates knows their role and knows what they're good at. They just need to play their roles the right way and play it well, and we'll come out on top every time."

That win was important for the program, as Scott's Branch hadn't been able to overcome their rivals for years due to superstar Talaysia Cooper, who is now at the University of South Carolina.

"Finally being able to beat East Clarendon and seeing her play well in a game like that, it was huge for us," Stukes said. "It keeps propelling us forward and takes us into the region.

Scott's Branch suffered their first region loss on Tuesday, falling to SCHSL 1A No. 6 Carvers Bay 50-33, but Bennett thinks their strong start can still help the Lady Eagles make a playoff push.

"I feel very good about those first two wins," Bennett said. "We suffered a loss (Tuesday), but that loss is over with. We're not going to focus on it; we're just worried about the next game ahead. Hopefully we come out better than we did and get to the playoffs and make it to state. We've just got to continue to work hard inside and outside of practice, and we'll do well."