It’s their fourth year together as members of Patrick Henry varsity girls basketball. They are peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Robin. One plays outside and loves to drive inside, the other plays inside but can shoot from far out.
They are Summer Price and Amber Lee, the one-two punch of the three-time defending Colonial District Champion Patriots, ready to forge a new era in Conference 16, and keep the winning going.
Price and Lee also know that, all season, they’ll be targets #1 and #1A of opposing defenses. The Patriots will be ready for it.
“We’ve been doing the same things the past couple of years, so we’re trying some new wrinkles this year, and it’s going to take some time,” said Patriots head coach Phillip Cobb.
Four players from the past three seasons are now playing collegiately: Taylor Huber (‘11) and Katie Anderson (‘12) at Randolph-Macon, and Jasmine and Tyler Pinder (‘13) at Bridgewater.
Returning for Patrick Henry alongside Price and Lee are fellow seniors, guard India Coles, guard/forward Rachel Adams, and forward Ashley Samuels. Cobb projects all five seniors to start when they welcome Maggie Walker Governors School to Ashland on opening night, Dec. 3.
Chantell Gordon, a junior forward with some varsity experience returns, joined on the bench by a few newcomers, led by juniors Berkley Hall and Briana Woody, and sophomore Shea Burch. The team had high hopes for minutes from freshman Aryna Taylor, but she is out for the season with a knee injury.
Cobb is hoping to develop depth along the way, and, more importantly, a consistent third scoring option to keep opponents from zeroing in on Lee and Price.
For Summer, her fourth and final season in red, white and blue will be without the distractions of having to make a college decision. She signed to play in the Big South Conference last week for Campbell University.
“There were quite a few other schools that talked to me, but I narrowed it down,” Price said, noting her first official trip was to Campbell and it made an impression.
As for Lee, she is relishing the senior leadership role, and the opportunity to hit a milestone: 1,000 career points for the Patriots.
“I’m not sure how many more points I need,” Lee noted sheepishly. “I don’t mind being a leader; I like helping out.”
Cobb notes he will worry about the new postseason landscape as the regular season begins to wind down. The Patriots, in Conference 16 of Class 5A North, will face Albemarle, Orange and Halifax in a postseason tournament, their days of Colonial District playoff showdowns with the likes of Mills Godwin and Deep Run now a thing of the past. The Patriots were 21-6 overall last year, 13-3 in the Colonial.
Price and Lee have both worked hard in the off-season to prepare for the next 100 days. Add to that the developing prospects of third scoring options, led by Coles, and Patriot opponents will, once again, have their work cut out for them against a veteran, tested, and talented squad.
The Confederates when 3-11 in the Capital District last season with an overall record of 6-16. They join Conference 11 this season in 5A South, a talented eight-team league including former Colonial powers Mills Godwin, Hermitage and Deep Run, plus Capital rivals Atlee and Highland Springs, both playoff teams last year.
The Confederates lost inside experience to graduation in Kori Hughes and Maci Morrison, but return backcourt depth in senior Kerstin Winston and juniors Olivia Tuck and Lauren McIntyre. Imani Boothe and Hannah Traylor also return.
Lee-Davis looks to the next generation to provide depth and new scoring opportunities, led by sophomores Indyia Branch, Shakeema Young, Jenna Whitt and Caroline Hilliard, plus freshmen Kaitlyn Hilliard and Kate Bridgers. The Confederates open their season Tuesday at Dinwiddie.
The Raiders went 7-7 in the Capital District last year, 12-11 overall, losing in the first round of the Central Region Tournament to Cosby. The Raiders lose a big scoring and inside option in Stephanie Staples, now playing at Randolph-Macon, as well as Nikki Gordon. But the Raiders do return four with significant playing experience from last season, led by guard Cierra Shelton, speedster Jamari Blackwell, Ashley Weaver and Shelby Hill.
Jayme Matthews, Sidney Beach, Jennifer Weigle and Shadonna Walker also return, and new head coach Michael Rawlings will look to them for more production. He’ll also have a slew of newcomers, including Alyse Armentrout, Maya Saunders and Julie Cochran. Depth should not be an issue if players 6-10 can contribute.
“These girls will be scrappy,” Rawlings said. “If we shoot well and team rebound efficiently, we will win more games than most people think. But the young players will have to grow up quickly.”
Atlee begins play at home Tuesday night against new Conference 11 foe Mills Godwin.
Last year, the Hawks went 2-12 in Capital District, 3-15 overall. This year, Hanover joins Atlee in welcoming a new head coach in Michael Rohr. He inherits six players and welcomes eight newcomers.
Seniors Sarah Belcher, April Lankford, Michelle Mondrey and Emily Wilson must anchor. Junior Taylor Peay provides outside shoot. Fellow juniors Morgan Roberts, Hollie Omohundro and Courtney Robinson will be counted on, as well as sophomore Kirsten Cleveland.
Rohr’s emphasis is on the defensive side of the floor, and avoiding turnovers, two areas where the Hawks do need improvement.
“We must play hard on the defensive end for all 32 minutes, taking care of the ball offensively. We also must continue to improve each day,” Rohr noted.
The first test for his new team comes Wednesday, Dec. 4 when they face Midlothian in the “Conference 20 Tip-Off Tournament” at J.R. Tucker in the West End.