2011-12 Basketball: North Rowan girls preview
By David Shaw
SPENCER ó Psst. Tony Hillian wants to let you in on a little secret.
North Rowanís fourth-year girls basketball coach believes the Cavs are primed for a breakout, run-the-table season. Donít be surprised if heís proven right when March rolls around.
ěThereís just something different about this season,î Hillian said following a recent practice. ěItís totally different than the other three. Iíve even had one of the girls tell me, ëYou understand us more.í We already know how to lose. This year is all about winning. These ladies, theyíve all gotten on board with that and theyíre ready to ride.î
Before you advise Hillian to drink plenty of fluids and get some rest, consider what heís proposing. True, this is a team that hasnít made the state playoffs since he took over in the fall of 2007. But itís a team that showed a healthy pulse at times last season ó when it split 16 YVC games, enjoyed a five-game winning streak, placed fifth in the conference and went 9-15 overall. Itís also team that was sucker-punched by fate when sixth-seeded South Davidson rallied to win the conference tournament and bumped the Cavs out of the postseason.
ěThat doesnít happen often,î Hillian said. ěBut it was a weird game. A girl got fouled on a 3-pointer, made one free throw and missed the other two. That sent it into overtime and the next thing you know, the No. 1 team from our league got beat.î
Hillian, ever the optimist, has a team with his personal stamp on it this year. The Cavs return six seniors, including four starters and a couple of all-conference players.
ěEverything we need is here,î Hillian said. ěBut nobodyís gonna give us a chance. They donít know anything North Rowan girls basketball. They know all about the boys team. But weíre here. Weíre on the map. And we plan on making some noise.î
The feel-good atmosphere at North begins with fourth-year senior Teaunna Cuthbertson, an all-YVC 5-foot-8 forward who has drawn interest from a handful of small college programs. She averaged a team-best 11.3 points-per-game last winter and needs 309 points to reach 1,000.
ěIf sheís able to bang the boards and dominate in the paint, sheíll have no trouble getting those 300,î Hillian said.
Another four-year headliner is pint-sized point-guard Tiffany Brown, the teamís best shooter. Hillian reports Brown ó who converts 85 percent of her free throws ó has taken between 200-300 shots from the floor during every North practice.
ěThe 10-footers, the five-footers, the 3-pointers,î he said. ěShe wants to be a threat from anywhere.î
Senior Tinka Bush joins Brown in the starting backcourt. Quickest of all the Cavs, she uses her speed to explode to the basket.
ěWhat people donít realize,î Hillian said, ěis sheís also our best defender. She causes turnovers that put everybody in position to score easy layups.î
There was no off in senior center Sabrina Vannís offseason. A third-year lettermen, the 5-10 bruiser is suddenly impossible to ignore.
ěShe worked on her jump shot and her drop-step,î Hillian noted. ěAnd sheís learned how to put the ball in the hole. Sheís stronger, wiser and better.î
The race for Northís final starting spot ó a smooth shooting forward to complement the brawn of Cuthbertson and Vann ó is a three-horse derby. Senior Ronesha Bradley jumps well and hustles tirelessly, but must improve her finishing technique. Tenesha Dickerson, a 5-7 senior, has a defense-first mindset and can convert from short range. And junior Taylor Sells is quietly aggressive, a 3-ball specialist who helped fuel Northís late-season winning streak.
Two of them will have to come off the bench, which isnít a bad problem to have. Other key reserves include sophomore Anna Lingle, a jayvee graduate with a deadly open shot; forward Amber Carter, a junior who spent the past two years attending early college at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College; and Desiree Rincon, a junior making her varsity debut after two years on JV.
ěShe does a lot of things that surprise you,î Hillian said. ěIf you look at her you wouldnít think sheís a basketball player, but sheís tough.î
North will add junior point guard Kiara Ellis to its roster in January. Hillian considers her one of those spare parts essential to all championship teams.
ěSheís got quick feet, she can dribble,î he said. ěWe need her contribution.î
Throw it all in a blender, mix for 20 games or so and pour out a team Hillian believes can make postseason news.
ěThis is the year we make the playoffs, the postseason, maybe go three or four rounds deep,î he boldly said. ěMaybe even win a state championship. We have some big goals. Just looking at our roster, this is the most powerful team weíve had in a long time. This team has everything ó and the spirit to win. I think itís our time.î