LANDIS — A decent number of coach Jarrrod Smith’s girls have driver’s licenses now, and a more mature South Rowan team has a chance to put together a winning season.
Smith is as ready to win as anyone after 6-17, 8-14, 10-16 and 6-18 in his first four years at the helm.
“You look at the banners around here, and South Rowan girls basketball was responsible for as many as anyone,” Smith said. “But it’s been a while. The most recent banner is 1999 (James Greene’s 22-5 team that had four 1,000-point scorers). We want to try to put one up.”
While the Raiders haven’t been winning frequently, its been fun seeing South play the last two seasons just to watch 5-foot-9 Avery Locklear flip basketballs through rims from all sorts of angles. Locklear had a school-record 43 vs. Northwest Cabarrus last season on opening night.
Locklear’s 418 points as a freshman was a South record and her 458 points in 2012-13 tied for fifth on the list of highest-scoring seasons by a Raider in any class.
Tracy Connor’s 542 points in 1990, when she was a sophomore, were the most ever scored by a South girl in a season.
With 876 points halfway through her career, Locklear is on pace to break the school record of 1,529 points that was set by Jill Cress in 1997. Locklear has averaged 17.5 points a night since she stepped on the floor for the first time, and ranks fourth in school history in that stat. Wanda Watkins averaged 18.5 per outing in her three years from 1979-81, and Ginny Smith averaged 18.1 in her two seasons in the 1960s. Connor scored 17.9 per game in her three years.
“Avery is a special player,” Smith said. “She didn’t get held under 20 very often last year.”
Locklear shoots well, drives better, and like all great scorers, makes her free throws count.
Cassidy Chipman, a 5-10 swing player, can light it up as well, Chipman averaged 13.7 points a game and had nights of 33, 20, 22, 21, 22 and 23.
Chipman can get on hot streaks where she makes everything, and when your No. 2 scorer is putting up 20s, there aren’t many concerns about offense.
“We scored enough points last year to have a good season, but we just weren’t good enough defensively,” Smith said. “Defense is what we’ve been stressing. If someone is able to stop Avery and Cassidy, we want to still be able to have a chance to win a ballgame.”
Smith’s point is well-taken. South allowed opponents to score nearly 60 per game last season, breaking a school record the Raiders didn’t want to break. Part of that was facing a steady diet of Kelly Dulkoski, Karleigh Wike and Shay Steele in the North Piedmont Conference, but the bottom line is you won’t win often in girls basketball if you allow 60.
South’s interior defense will get a boost from Lynsey Corriher’s return. Her torn ACL in the fifth game last season was a season-wrecker for her and her team.
“She’s been on varsity since her freshman year, so we lost a lot of experience when Lynsey went down,” Smith said. “We lost leadership and a lot of defense and rebounding, so it’s good to have her back.”
Corriher made a successful comeback with a strong volleyball season. Basketball involves more lateral movement than volleyball, but Smith expects Corriher to be fine.
She’s scored 216 points in her career and could provide Smith with a third scoring option.
When Smith looked out on the floor last season, he usually saw a jayvee-age team with five sophomores.
Besides Chipman and Locklear, South’s team was usually 5-6 bookends Caroline Hubbard and Beth Ann “B.A.” Martin, both of whom averaged 2.8 points per game, and 5-foot buzz saw Sylvetta Bost.
“Sylvetta is hard to trap because she has quick hands and quick feet,” Smith said. “She’s just so fast. She was our third-leading rebounder because she ran so many long rebounds down.”
Hubbard and Martin have been role players in the past, but they are ready to make an impact.
“They’re more confident and both should score a lot more,” Smith. “They can shoot.”
Smith expects returner Kayla McLendon (23 points last season) and Kamryn Stamey, up from the jayvees, to provide a presence in the post.
Katie Figueroa, Caitlin Waters and Madison Smith are other newcomers up from a good jayvee team. They could make most of their impact defensively.
Waters is a name that South softball fans already know. She’s very good in that sport.
“I think we’re dangerous,” Smith said. “If we get tougher defensively, we can be a good team.”
The Raiders are moving into the Southern Piedmont Conference, and that should enhance their chances for success.
Not that things will be easy, but there doesn’t figure to be anyone in the SPC as good as the West Rowan, Carson and North Iredell teams that South went 0-7 against last season.
South was 0-4 against East Rowan last season, and the Mustangs may be the SPC’s preseason favorite.
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