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The Indian Land Warriors’ basketball teams earned postseason bids last season and the IL coaches are hopeful, as the teams continue to work hard, they can build on hoops success and return to postseason play.
Warriors’ coach Nate Smith returns a solid cast of players, while the Lady Warriors have their share of returnees this season.
Smith said he feels the Warriors, 11-7 and the region runner-up in their final campaign in Class A hoops last season, can build off team chemistry.
The Warriors return senior Jarrell Robinson, who averaged 14 points a game and reaped all-region honors.
“Jarrell had good success in football and I hope it carries over to basketball,” Smith said.
The IL returnees include senior forward Shaquille Lathan and junior guard Rashid McGriff, who averaged 4 points a game last season.
“Rashid is our defensive specialist,” Smith said. “We will count on him to be our floor leader.”
IL also sports talented Terrell Rodgers, a junior. Rodgers, who played in the Battle of the Classes as one of the top players in the Carolinas, can score and handle the ball.
A trio IL sophomores will play key roles, including Junior Warriors MVP Hayden Sawyer, a guard.
Smith said he will also count on sophomore post players Marty Cauthen and Trevor Hoxworth.
Warriors’ newcomers also include junior guard Drew Richardson, the Junior Warriors Offensive Player of the Year, along with junior wing Eric Brock and Jaden Barrell. Sophomore Cameron Davis will work in the post.
Darnell Rodgers, an eighth grader, rounds out the Warriors’ team.
“This team is about heart,” Smith said. “I think we can surprise some folks. We’re young, but I feel we’re deep at guard with Darnell and Terrell, and this will be one of our quickest teams.”
Smith said Lee Central and Cheraw are the picks to win the region title, but he looks for Buford, Central and Andrew Jackson to be tough.
“I feel this team will develop and come around and surprise some teams as the season moves along,” Smith said.
As for the Lady Warriors, IL coach Tamara Jacobus has her share of veterans back from the 16-6 team which earned a playoff berth last season.
“We’re stepping up in a tough Class AA region this season, but we’re looking forward to it,” she said.
Jacobus has five returnees, led by senior guards Mariah Williams and Hannah Harris.
Williams, coming off ACL surgery, is out, but is expected to return by the time region play begins in January. She earned all-state honors and was the Lancaster County Player of the Year, averaging 17 points and 4.5 rebounds a game last winter.
Harris, the team’s All-Heart Award winner last season, will pick up the slack after netting 10 points and eight boards a game.
Brittany Montgomery, a senior guard, earned the team’s Hustle Award last season.
Junior Jessica Floyd, named the team’s Most Improved Player last season, returns in the post, while Kelsey Young, a sophomore guard, will see more playing time after earning the Junior Lady Warriors’ Best Offensive Player.
Lindsay Johnson, a sophomore guard, is a top newcomer after reaping the Junior Lady Warriors’ Best Defensive Player Award.
Other new faces for the IL girls include junior forwards Khadijah Sistare and Toi Lathan along with sophomore guard Genesis Gonzalez.
Jacobus is again assisted by “Ziggie” Bajona.
“Lee Central has a great tradition in Class AA basketball and is the favorite in our league this season,” Jacobus said. “We will be facing new teams this year as well as some familiar faces. It’s a league where you have to be ready to play each night and bring your ‘A’ game.
“This team is young overall, but I feel it will work and improve and be a force in our region,” she said.