ELIZABETHTOWN — In what most folks considered a rebuilding year for the Lady Eagles of East Bladen High on the hardcourt, coach patty Evers turned in what those same folks have called her best coaching job of her career.
On the heels of three straight strips to the state championship game, Evers was looking at a roster that had lost its stars coming into the 2011-12 season.
But with seniors Zhane Johnson and Crystal Shipman, along with junior Melissa Macon, the Lady Eagles shocked perhaps even themselves by finishing 10-2 in the Waccamaw Conference, good for second place; took second place in the conference tournament; and put together an 18-9 overall record.
Going into this season, however, Evers thinks there’s a lot of work still to do.
“I really think that this is a true rebuilding year,” she said, “but it can be successful once the younger players learn our system and our defense.”
Without the athleticism and leadership provided by Johnson and Shipman, Evers says she will be shuffling her lineup from week to week looking for the right mix.
“Our weakness right now is our inexperience,” she said.
But there are also some bright spots.
“I think our strengths will be our quickness in stopping the ball out front,” Evers added. “I think our sophomores can make a difference with more time on the court. Abby Norris, Natalie Hardin and Imani Turner-Dobson did a good job last year catching on and I hope they can put that to use as the year goes on.
Evers is looking for her freshmen to adapt quickly to the pace of the game, as well as her guards to limit their turnovers. On defense, rebounding and being more physical under the basket are keys for East Bladen.
As far as the Waccamaw Conference this season, Evers thinks there is plenty of parity.
“I think that the level of play across the eastern part of our state is down in general, which means I think any team in our conference can be beat on any given night,” she said. “I think Whiteville will be in contention again because they return three key players. North Brunswick always produces athletes and West Bladen has experience on their side. It should be interesting.”
East Bladen plays Tuesday on the road at East Columbus High, followed by another road game on Wednesday at St. Pauls High.