Deep, talented rosters have Westview teams poised for 13AA run
Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 12:00 pm
By RANDY CAVIN
Optimism is running wild at Westview with both basketball teams fully loaded and gearing up for another tough year in District 13AA.
The Lady Chargers return seven out of their top eight players from last season, while the Chargers come in with a roster bigger than a lot of Class A football teams.
While both teams bring back plenty of experience, both head coaches realize a lot of things must come together in order to win one of the toughest districts in Class AA.
The Lady Chargers, coming off of a 20-win season a year ago, look ready to compete for the district title and return to the regional tournament, where they lost to Covington in the semifinals.
“We obviously need to improve,” head coach Sean Stephenson said. “We cannot rest on what we did last year.”
Westview returns four seniors for the 2012-13 season led by forward Teddy Vincent. She will be matching up against some of the area’s top players under the basket and will be responsible for keeping the likes of Obion Central’s Brandi Goodman in check. Stephenson is expecting a great year out of his senior forward.
“It is her senior year, and she wants to get back to the state tournament,” Stephenson said. “We need her to score, rebound and handle the ball. Typically she gets to guard the other team’s biggest player. So obviously we need her to play on that end, too.”
Vincent was an all-region player last season.
Other seniors joining Vincent will be guards Kaitlyn Harrelson, Katelyn Luthi and forward Jasmine Howard.
“Jasmine Howard came on late last year on the defensive end of the floor,” Stephenson said. “She did a good job of shutting down the Courtney Haynes girl from Gibson County in the do-or-die game in the district tournament.”
Stephenson will be looking for all of his seniors to show leadership to the younger players, but sophomore guard Katie Vincent may not need it. She performed beyond her years last season.
“I am looking for Katie Vincent to have a great year,” he said.
Juniors Kendall and Kaley Leyhue came into their own last season, and both should see plenty of playing time this season.
Other notable players are sophomore guards Alexus Taylor and Tiffany Rechis. The Lady Chargers bring in freshmen Marlena Spivey, Erica Batchelor and Katie Covington.
A deep bench gives the Westview head coach several options, depending on the opponent and matchups.
“Out of our top seven, I could start a variety of any of those kids,” the Lady Chargers’ skipper said. “Katelyn Luthi and Katelyn Harrelson are both seniors and our six and seven. They have played a lot, and at any point during the season I could start them.”
Stephenson believes with these quality players that Westview could be the No. 2 team in the district, right behind Obion Central.
“You have the best player (Goodman) in the district returning, so they should be the preseason No. 1, which is where they ought to be, I think,” Stephenson said. “Compare them to what they have returning and what they have done the last couple of years. I think we should fall in the two-three mix. Covington is good again this year. I think Obion, ourselves and Covington ought to be one through three.”
Stephenson thinks Dyersburg and Gibson County will be close at the four and five spots.
Stephenson is not the only Westview coach with a deep bench. Chargers head coach J.B. Suiter has six returning seniors coming back from last season’s 23-7 team. Joining those six will be seven juniors, three sophomores and 11 freshmen on the roster.
The only starter not returning from last season is Chris Evans.
“We have got over 90 percent of our guys back,” Suiter said.
With such a deep team coming back, Suiter is confident his team belongs in the top echelon in the league. District 13AA is tough as always with Covington, Dyersburg and an upcoming Haywood County team.
“I think it puts us in the top three or four in the district,” Suiter said. “But, we have such a strong district. Covington traditionally has a good team. Haywood was young and talented last year across the board. You have all of the other teams I am hearing about on how much improved they are.”
The Chargers are not short on talent by any means. Seniors Jazell Baker, Jordan Davis, Javier Gordon, Antonio Hogard, Tyler Sams and RJ Scott are all quick to the basket and play a tenacious defense. Opposing teams will be looking hard at this group of seniors and they are one reason Westview will be one of the favorites going into the new season.
“Do I think other teams that has us on their schedule has us highlighted? The answer to that is yes,” Suiter said. “I think people are looking at us. I think they have that bull’s-eye on our back. We have the quality kids from that group back from last year.
“We have chance to make another run at it. We have another chance to be in the district championship three years in a row.”
Four of Westview’s six seniors were starters last season. That in itself is enough to put a target on the Chargers. Suiter may have to wait for a couple of his seniors to get back into basketball playing shape. Scott and Javier Gordon have been playing football and Gordon is currently nursing an injury. The injury to Gordon will give Sams more playing time.
“RJ is trying to get his legs back under him, but he is getting there and Javier has a knee injury right now that we are tending to,” Suiter said. “He is going to be out for a few weeks. Tyler Sams is a workhorse so he will be getting some minutes.”
Last season the Chargers were well known for jumping out to big early leads thanks to their pressing defense.
Opposing teams can look for more of the same if Suiter has his way about it. He wants this season’s Chargers to be just a tenacious on defense to create scoring opportunities on the offensive end of the board.
“We want to create the pressure early in the game,” Suiter said. “We do not want to be looking up trying to catch somebody. I think we are built for anything. I think we can come back if we have to. I think we can build leads and win close games.”
If the Chargers can build those big early leads and have the game in hand early in the fourth period, then that will give the younger players opportunities to see some playing time and get more experience.
The Chargers could use any number of combinations off the bench.
Freshmen Parker Beale and Dallas Callins would benefit playing mop-up in the fourth period, or any number of the other freshmen and sophomores.
Westview’s season gets under way tonight against Henry County in one of the TSSAA Hall of Champions games.
Both teams will have their home openers in the Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 23. Published in The WCP 11.15.12