YORK — The York Comprehensive High School basketball teams will make the trek to Chester for nonregion play against the Cyclones on Friday evening.
The action begins with Paula Blackwell’s Lady Cougars against Chester at 6:30 p.m. First-year coach Michael Dalton’s Cougars will play the Chester boys at 8 p.m.
Dalton, an assistant coach at perennial power Gaffney before accepting the head coaching position with the Cougars, has been evaluating players since the end of football season.
Dalton said he knows about transitioning players from football to the basketball court. “It takes time for the players to mesh together,” he said.
Dalton said that football players affect the basketball programs at the varsity, junior varsity, ninth-grade and middle school level.
“Our kids are working hard at practice,” Dalton said. “December is the month to make the adjustments and find the right combinations.”
The Lady Cougars youth on the varsity roster showed in preseason scrimmages, as well as last week’s Palmetto Rehabilitation Girls Basketball Tournament in York.
The Lady Cougars roster for 2013-14 includes five ninth-graders, with three freshman starters and the other two with substantial playing time off the bench.
Though the York girls fell to the senior-dominated Hough Huskies 57-15 and Andrew Jackson 64-34 in the Palmetto tourney, the ninth-graders, who had banner seasons at York Middle School, had their moments – highlighted by the performances of Makala Love and Meg McGarity in the Andrew Jackson game.
Love, an athletic guard who can score off the dribble penetration, was the leading scorer with 12 points, including two strong drives.
“Taking it to the hoop helped my confidence,” Love said after the game. “I was ready the second time I had the opportunity to drive to the basket.”
She also nailed a three-pointer, which proved another confidence-builder.
Love said she has learned a lot from her cousin, Ivory Latta, the career scoring leader in South Carolina and current all-star performer for the WNBA Washington Mystics.
“Ivory’s taught me so much about the game,” said Love.
“This year is a learning experience for us,” she said. “Next year, we will be better prepared to play the game at this level.”
McGarity, a playmaking guard, kept the Cougars in the game with medium-range shots early against Andrew Jackson. “Our scrimmages helped my confidence,” McGarity said. “I want the ball. I am not afraid to shoot.”
McGarity agrees with Love regarding the freshman players’ adjustment to the varsity game: “Next year, we will be a real solid team,” she said.
The play of Love, McGarity and the other freshmen hasn’t gone unnoticed by Blackwell.
“Makala will be the point guard the next four years, if she keeps improving her ball-handling,” Blackwell said. “She knows the game and wants to learn more. She is athletic and can pass and score.”
“Meg can shoot the three and the shot off the dribble. She plays tough for her size.”
Blackwell said she saw positive signs in the team’s final game in the Palmetto tourney.
“I was pleased with the team’s defensive intensity the whole game,” she said. “We cut down on the number of unforced turnovers.”
Blackwell also praised first-year varsity player Keshia McClure’s defense, rebounding and aggressive play overall.
“We had two players out for the Andrew Jackson game and were down to nine,” said Blackwell. “We want to push the ball up the court.”