Lady Patriots hit post break grind with belief

January 11, 2016


MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Going into his fourth season as women’s basketball coach at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), Brian Henderson believed his team could be surprisingly good this winter despite fielding eight freshman and just two sophomores. The trick, he said, was making his young core of starters believe the same thing.

Regardless of the youth, the talent on paper coming in had the potential of making the Lady Patriots competitive fairly quickly, and at 3-3 through the first six games that looked to be the case. Following Saturday’s double-digit loss to Region X foe Brunswick – their third straight loss – the Patriots know there is plenty of work to be done still in hopes of achieving a consistent high ceiling the rest of the season.

PHCC came off the 20-day holiday layoff sluggish and was outscored by 33 points in the first half against Brunswick. Not focusing the negative, Henderson quickly pointed out the 42-29 turnaround his team had in the second half. It was that stretch, he said, that has him expecting good things as the blue and gold hit the busy part of the season. The Patriots have nine games in the month of January alone, one more than they had prior to the break over November and December.

“We are trying to teach these students to become professional student-athletes. Being a student-athlete doesn’t mean that on break you do nothing; it means on break you’re working hard in the gym,” Henderson said. “You need to continue to get better, because once you come back in January it’s a whole new season.

Teams have changed up their strategies because they have more scouting reports and know how you play. So if you continue to play at the level you were, teams will take advantage of it,” he added.

Henderson expected there to be some rust coming back from the layoff, and it certainly showed in the early stages against the Dolphins. With a steady flow of games and practices from this point forward, freshman guard and Danville High School product Lexi Dabney said she is excited to see the team bond over the next 16 games, starting Tuesday against Region X opponent Catawba Valley Community College.

Dabney, who scored a team-high 16 points in the loss Saturday, added that while her teammates worked hard during the time off, reestablishing the chemistry achieved in wins over Wake Tech and Delaware Tech back in December would be difficult initially. Looking to use their second-half performance against Brunswick as a springboard, Dabney said she’s confident in her team making the right adjustments.

“It’s still hard trying to get back in the groove of things,” Dabney said. “It felt like we started out at square one, but as we start to get more practice in we’ll get a whole lot better and bring that bond back.”

Dabney, along with fellow Danville standouts Laprecious England and Kedra Bradley, is just one of a number of Virginia High School League, Piedmont District players featured on the Patriots’ roster. Those three freshman join fellow freshman Ebony Reynolds from Patrick County High School and sophomore Kim Martin of Bassett as the PD quintet. New Carrollton, Md. duo, freshman Demi Calhoun and Ruth Omolola, also provide quality depth in the post as does Australia native Olivia Simpson.

Bradley, Dabney, England and Omolola all average eight points per game while Reynolds leads the team at a near 16 points per game average. Omolola and Reynolds also average more than 11 rebounds per game, showcasing the different dimensions the women possess.

“I think naturally your sophomores are going to understand the game, and not necessarily be the best athlete, but know how you have to work that much harder in practice to prepare for your opponent and game situations,” Henderson said. “We have shown though that we have some freshman that can compete against the upperclassmen.”

Better ball control and extinguishing big runs by its opponents are things Henderson would like to see his team improve upon this month. He is a believer in the junior college system and how it provides quality competition to help push his team’s level of play.

The pieces are there, now it’s a matter of believing in the collective unit.

Filed under: Women's Basketball