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Lancaster High School basketball coaches are hoping experience will be a key factor for both hoops squads this season.
The Lady Bruins, 11-11 last winter, have nine returnees off their team which earned a playoff berth after posting a 9-5 region mark and third-place finish.
The Bruins, 12-13 last season, also return nine players for the upcoming campaign.
LHS boys coach Ricardo Priester said the LHS boys will have their share of youth as four of the sophomore returnees joined the Bruins late in the 2012-13 season.
“We have our share of veterans, but we also have some youth and we have to find the right chemistry with this team,” Priester said. “We have to have our older players providing good, solid leadership and our young players must step up and push our older players to play to their potential.
“We have to play with passion and conviction,” he said.
The Bruins will look to senior guard Duece Dunlap, who averaged 16.5 points per game last season, to provide key play. Dunlap earned all-region honors and was tabbed as the team MVP last season.
Senior guard Calvin Crawford, the LHS captain, is a key returnee after he reaped the team’s Most Improved Player Award.
Priester will also look to senior forward E.J. Patterson and Kavonta Strain, a senior guard. Patterson, along with Dunlap, were selected as preseason all-region picks.
Juniors back are guard Keifon Cogdel along with forwards Jay Hall and Cameron Meadows. Cogdel earned the Junior Bruins MVP Award and Meadows, a stalwart on the LHS football team this fall, garnered the Best Defensive Player Award on the jayvee team.
Sophomore returnees include Keont’e Mack, a 6-6 forward, along with 6-4 forward Lewis Johnson and 6-3 forward Taron Heath. Guard Quasheon McCarter provides back court depth along with Tyshen Hammond, who is out with an injury to January.
In the preseason region coaches poll, the Bruins were picked sixth, but Priester said the Bruins will use the ranking as a challenge.
“Region IV-AAAA is arguably the toughest basketball region in the state, so the key is to be humble and hungry,” he said. “Each time we take the court, we have to bring our ‘A’ game and be ready to play. There are no cupcakes on our schedule, region and non-region, and I feel a tough non-region schedule with games against Andrew Jackson and Spring Valley will prepare us for tough region play.”
Priester is assisted by veteran aide Jerron Cauthen.
The Lady Bruins, in the Region IV-AAAA preseason girls coaches poll, were picked second behind Northwestern High School.
“We feel good about our team,” LHS coach Ronnie Robinson said. “We have more experience and we have a strong, cohesive group. I like our team chemistry.”
Lancaster is led by senior center Phoebe Johnson, a preseason all-region pick, who has signed to play college basketball at UNC Wilmington.
Johnson, as a junior, averaged 11.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and three blocks a game. She posted 10 double-doubles and received the team’s Bruin Award last season.
Senior Kyia Hough, who missed last season, returns at guard. She is a two-time all-region pick who averaged 14 points a game as a sophomore. She is also headed to the next level after signing with Western Carolina University during the early signing period earlier this month.
Senior Aliyah Davis, who started last season, returns after earning the team’s Defensive Award. She averaged 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds a game last season.
Senior Kenyatta Roberson also returns to the blue and gold fold as a veteran starter.
Junior guard Kaela Robinson is another returning starter. Two juniors up from the jayvee team are center Mia Flowers and Kaliya Jackson.
Sophomores, who drew key playing time last season, are Hayden Thorne, Alexis Williams and Keyotta Garris. Amirah Steward, a sophomore, will also be counted on to contribute.
Garris averaged 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds a game last season.
“I feel the key for this team is to play consistent and reduce our turnovers,” Robinson said. “We have to play smart basketball, which is an area we’ve stressed this season.”
Robinson, assisted by Dwayne Robinson, said the region race is wide open.
“There is no one dominant team,” he said. “Our goal is to win the region championship. In order to do that, we have to come out each night and play hard and be consistent in all phases of the game.”
Senior Erica Moses is the Lady Bruins basketball manager.
“We have a good group and I feel they will play to their potential this season,” Robinson said.
Lancaster opens its basketball season Tuesday, Dec. 3 when Spring Valley visits the LHS Bruins Den.
Contact sports editor Robert Howey at 283-1157