Girls basketball: Seniors look to take next step at Capital
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Last season, the Capital girls basketball team won 14 games, finishing with the most successful season since 2007.
Despite losing two of their top players to graduation, Cougars Coach B.J. Calabrese has a senior-laden team, and is hoping to build off the momentum from last year.
"With the success we had last year, the girls returning have carried that over," Calabrese said. "Being able to win some games and with things working out for us last year, it makes the girls feel even more confident."
Calabrese returns five seniors, including two returning starters in Katie Crowder and Bri Harris. Three other seniors have also seen extensive time over the years: Khadijah Lee, Tatiyana Wood and Nautika Carter.
"We are a senior-dominated team this year with five seniors we are really counting on," Calabrese said. "They are working really hard right now. They are our leaders and are helping the younger girls out."
Among the seniors, Crowder, a 5-foot-4 inside player, and Bri Harris, a 5-5 power forward, started last year, and Calabrese is expecting big things them.
"Katie can play the wing or down on the block," Calabrese said. "She is undersized but she is really aggressive. She will get on the court and make the hustle plays. She is a good defender and has a knack for grabbing rebounds.
"Bri is quick and a real good defender. Sometimes she is matched down inside and other times we put her on the point guard or shooting guard. She has the aggressive defensive mentality we like. She does a good job of denying the ball into the hands of the better players."
The other returning starter from last year is sophomore India Hairston, a 5-6 utility player.
"She can play anywhere from the power forward to the point guard," Calabrese said. "Ideally, she is a shooting guard/small forward and is more comfortable on the wings, but there are times where we let her run point but also times we put her on the blocks.
"She was just a freshman last year, and we put her in the starting lineup early. I thought she progressed a lot as the year went around. It's tough to come into our conference as a freshman and produce. We are expecting big things from her."
Calabrese expects huge roles from Lee, Wood and Carter, as well as sophomore centers Tiffany Reavis and Dashia Foster. The 6-0 Foster is a transfer from Huntington St. Joe, and was the starting center on the championship team last season.
Calabrese indicated his team is a diverse unit, which will allow him to play different lineups based on the Cougars opponents.
"The things is we have some depth this year," Calabrese said. "I've never been blessed with this at Capital, where we have about three girls at 5-11 or 6-0 tall. We can go with a bigger lineup or can downsize against other teams.
"At times, we think we might go with three big players and two guards opposed to what we done in the past with five guards. We are trying to find different combinations and fitting the pieces of the puzzle together."
No matter the lineup, Calabrese still hopes to what he believes is his team's main strength, their defensive intensity.
"We still like to press people and be more aggressive on the defensive end," Calabrese said. "We were pretty successful mainly on pressure and our guards. We were able to man press teams, and we still want to maintain that."