YORK — When the York Comprehensive High School varsity girls’ basketball team was invited to participate in Monday’s Clover Basketball Shootout, head coach Paula Blackwell jumped at the chance.
“We knew it would be good experience for the players the day before our shootout in York,” Blackwell said.
Players who competed on Arsonia Stroud’s York Middle School eighth-grade team last season are now assuming key roles at the varsity level, and Blackwell said she cherishes the opportunity to evaluate players in shootout competition.
“We are real pleased with the attitude of the players and the passion they have for the game,” Blackwell said. “The players are meshing together.”
Blackwell said returning varsity personnel and rising ninth-grade players’ participation in AAU basketball is making a difference on the court.
A three-point, down-to-the-wire game with Nation Ford in Monday’s Clover Shootout is proof of the Lady Cougars’ commitment to gaining the competitive edge it takes to compete at the 4A level.
Carrie Lee Lancaster, an all-region performer last season, likes the team’s mindset and commitment.
“We’ve improved a lot and are having fun doing it,” the 6-foot-1 post player said.
“Playing AAU ball together has helped us to get to know each other,” said Lancaster. “We are a quicker team that is bonding and building team chemistry. We can play a faster tempo. The key to success is hard work and continued improvement. Building chemistry has to continue.”
Hannah Cassell, a rising senior point guard and floor leader, said the Lady Cougars have a different approach to the game. “We’re a better team than we were this time last year,” she said.
Cassell believes her senior leadership and court presence can help the team when regular season play begins in late November.
Cassell points to the narrow loss to Nation Ford in Monday’s shootout as evidence of a team on the rise.
“I think we have the potential to surprise some teams when the season starts,” said Cassell, who was elevated from JV to varsity status her sophomore season.
Meg McGarity is among the rising ninth-graders making an impact at the varsity level in the offseason.
“We’re making adjustments,” McGarity said. “We’re not afraid to make a mistake.”
Blackwell likes the team’s gritty demeanor. “We have kids that want to be here in the offseason,” she said. “That’s making a difference.”
Lancaster’s assessment says volumes about the team’s positive outlook. “We’re having fun again,” she said.