Girls basketball: Ullman, Huskies continue to build
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After a near miss last season, the Herbert Hoover girls basketball team is flirting with a winning season - something the program has not seen since 1996.
That team, which included Cary Friel, Missy Anderson, Lori Grindstaff, Jenny Blackwell and Jennifer Kee, went 11-10.
Coached by Jeff Holliday, the Huskies were 8-9 until consecutive wins over George Washington, Man and DuPont gave Hoover an 11-9 record before a sectional championship loss to Ripley ended its season.
"I think the magic number is 12," Huskies Coach Greg Ullman said. "And there are no easy ones left, I know that."
Herbert Hoover is 10-5 employing a platoon system rarely seen.
Ullman often substitutes five for five to keep fresh bodies on the court as the Huskies apply full-court, defensive pressure from start to finish.
"Honestly I'm hoping for 14 or 15 (wins)," Ullman said. "I think if we play well, we can do that."
That would mark a continued, steady increase in wins over the past few seasons.
"It may seem crazy worrying about finishing over .500," Ullman said. "But it's a building block."
One he hopes leads to bigger and better things for the program.
"Obviously it's not where we want to stop," Ullman said. "But we have to get there first."
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MISSY ANDERSON was a senior on that 1996 Herbert Hoover team and averaged 15 points a game while making All-Conference twice.
She is better remembered as Missy Smith, the school's current softball coach and the volleyball coach at George Washington High School.
"I have some of the (Hoover) basketball girls on my softball team," she said. "I like to see all of the sports teams there do well, it is good for everybody."
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ANOTHER NEARBY program is looking to finish with its best season in years.
Valley High sits just across the Kanawha County line in Fayette County and is currently sitting on an 8-3 record, with all three defeats coming to Class AA teams.
The last time the Class A Greyhounds finished above .500 was in 2005 when they were 12-9, which also is the only winning record in recent memory.
They are led by senior Alexis Payne, but the predominantly young team has a bright future.
"We're very young," first-year Coach Richie Cantrell said. "Alexis is our only senior."
Sophomore guard Abbie Buchan is averaging 15 points a game and has shown flashes of becoming a star.
Then there is the middle school program.
"There were 48 girls out for the middle school team this year," Cantrell said. "We have a tremendous talent pool here."
Though he is closing in on retirement Cantrell has some unfinished business to take care of in the next couple of years.
"If I can get the program started in the right direction," he said. "Then somebody can come in and they can do well."
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GEORGE WASHINGTON senior guard Rachel Ward passed the 1,000-point mark for her career Saturday when the Patriots defeated Beckley 59-29.
She is averaging 16.9 points per game this season.
A double-threat, Ward hit .384 as the starting shortstop for the Patriots' softball team last spring.
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FORMER NITRO All-Stater Kendra Wallace is finishing her collegiate career at High Point this season.
Wallace has 982 career points and 202 career 3-pointers.
Kanawha County's other two Division I women's basketball players are also doing quite well this season.
Former Nitro and George Washington High star Dri Nazario has started 14 of North Carolina A&T's games this year as a sophomore and leads the 11-7 Aggies in assists.
Former Nitro and South Charleston High standout Brittany Gordon is having a strong freshman season at Pittsburgh.
Gordon has played in every game and started in nine for the 9-10 Panthers.
Although averaging only 17 minutes a game, she is second on the squad in assists.