High school basketball teams that didn’t have a single senior on their 2019-20 squad would still be in tough spots entering this season. For those looking to replace more than half of their starting lineup, there’s destined to be some growing pains early in the year.
The Cartersville girls fall into the latter category after seeing a trio of senior starters graduate, and Canes head coach Cindy Moore understands the challenge her team will face over the opening month of the season.
“To be honest, there’s a lot of questions,” she said. “We graduated four seniors. Three of them were starters with lots of experience. You’ve got to be able to give folks the opportunity to become more comfortable in a different role. Not being able to play hardly at all this summer and we had a few playing fall ball but not a significant amount, those were some things that were thrown out of kilter.
“It’s not just us; it’s everybody. You have to work through it. We certainly are going to have to use these games before region starts in January to figure out some things and put the puzzle pieces that will fit together the best.”
Moore will hope, once Cartersville is able to find its best rotation, that the Canes can earn a playoff berth in Region 7-AAAAA. After missing out on the state tournament the past few years, Moore believes this team can end the drought.
“We’ve told the kids we want to be back in postseason play,” she said. “It’s time. … The opportunity is there if things fall in place for us to go to the postseason. That’s every team’s goal.”
Cartersville (11-15 last year) came up a little bit short last season in that pursuit. However, the Canes showed plenty of promise, and the team dropped its regular-season finale by just four points to Troup County, which went on to finish as the Class 4A state runner-up.
This year, Cartersville will be competing in a higher classification but in a smaller region. With just six teams in the region, there will be a decent chance the Canes are able to finish with one of the four playoff spots.
If that’s going to be the case, seniors Kierra Milline and Jamiya Moore, along with junior Lehla Thomas, will need to lead the way.
“Kierra is probably one of our most versatile players,” coach Moore said. “She’s not a big post player, but she’s a hard worker and we ask her to do a lot of different things. Jamiya is probably the most consistent shooter we have right now. … Lehla can play all five positions. Obviously, she has the basketball IQ. We’ve asked her to play post, and this year, you’ll see her play some guard.”
The key for Cartersville will be finding enough ancillary pieces to boost the team to new heights.
Alexia Henderson and Sequoya McConnell provide athleticism and scoring potential. The 5-foot-6 juniors have different strengths, but both could provide major contributions. 6-footer Zoe Casey is a sophomore who boasts plenty of upside, while senior move-in guard Ari Olotu could bring scrappiness and energy.
Depth will be even more important this season with the possibility of players missing games due to COVID-19 protocols.
“We’ve had some kids who were quarantined,” Moore said. “Nobody was positive, but because of the situation, there’s only been one week, honestly, we’ve had everybody in the program out [at practice] at the same time. …
“I think it’s just something that is inevitable. You just hope it doesn’t hit you hard during a week of basketball or two weeks of basketball.”
Moore knows that the path to the postseason won’t be straightforward. That doesn’t mean the main goal changes for the Canes.
“With everybody having gone through COVID in the offseason and some of the unknowns ahead, we’re just trying to take it one day at a time to get better,” Moore said. “But our goal is to be playing past the region tournament.”