The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Sports Editor 

Athleticism, Freshmen Talent Highlight Lady Blue Devils – Brevard NC

 

December 5, 2016

The 2016-17 Brevard High School girls' basketball team. (Times photo by Jeremiah Reed)

It's not quite The Fab Five, but a trio of standout freshmen will undoubtedly play a vital role for the Brevard Lady Blue Devils' basketball team this season.

And while freshmen and youth may be synonymous, one label you can't attach to the three ninth-grade players is inexperience.

"That freshman group has been playing basketball year-round," said third-year head coach Chad Owenby. "There were eight freshmen girls that entered high school after a great middle school season. And, in all honesty, there were several of those girls that could have played varsity."

The chosen three are Tristen Berry, Brooklyn Rising and Hannah Cabe.

They are the babies of a 14-player roster that also features six seniors and a handful of juniors.

Owenby said 2016-17's roster is by far the youngest he's had since taking over the program, but raved about the skill set and natural talent the freshman class brings to the table.

"When you mix (the freshmen) in with the rest of the roster, we're as athletic a group as I've had since I've been here," he said. "You can see some of those freshmen tendencies, but you can also see that they're well beyond their years in their sense of understanding the game."

To counter that youth and provide leadership, Owenby will look to his group of six seniors – five of whom played on last year's team.

And for senior leadership, Owenby needs look no further than Ashley McBee.

After finishing second on the team in points last season (7.9 points per game), McBee has more than doubled her output this year, averaging 18.4 points through five games this year.

She also brings that much-needed senior voice to the team.

"Ashley has been very influential on the girls," Owenby said. "She's always ready to go. She's first in all the drills. And she's putting up the points. She didn't play basketball the first two years of high school and that young lady – she's going to college on a volleyball scholarship – but could easily play basketball at a lot of these schools."

Other seniors to watch for include Danielle Troyer, Mia Robertson and Kinsey Wright – who all finished in the top five in rebounding last season.

But more important than their play on the floor, Owenby wants his seniors to provide guidance to the younger players.

"We're getting good leadership out of our seniors," he said. "And when you've got a group that's split – with mostly seniors and freshmen – you really need that leadership."

For all the new additions, one loss can't be ignored.

Nijayah Cruell, who led the Lady Blue Devils in points and rebounds last season, transferred to Asheville Christian Academy for her senior year.

Owenby said losing Cruell was tough, but added that he wasn't looking for any one player to replace her production. Rather, he wants to see the team fill that void collectively.

"It's always a loss to lose a player like Nijayah, but we've had a great group step up. It's all about being able to spread it around a bit. Even with the youth that we have, we've made great strides to recover," Owenby said.

So far this season, his players aren't letting him down.

In Brevard's early games, they have shown much more ball movement than they did last season and had several players display confidence handling the basketball.

Owenby said finding more balance, on both sides of the ball, is great to see so early in the season.

"We have a balanced scoring attack and a balanced defensive effort," he said. "The group is very even across the board. We'll have one or two stand out each game and with the youth coming along – and given the progress they've made already – it makes it a fun group to coach."

That balance is evident in the Lady Blue Devils' stat sheet as the top five scorers this year consist of three seniors, a junior and a freshman – all of whom are averaging more than five points per game.

The results are there as well. Brevard dropped their season-opener to Enka before storming past Blue Ridge Early College and falling to Madison in a game where they couldn't buy a basket.

They rebounded to beat Blue Ridge again, then rolled over Polk County by 41 points.

Owenby said there is plenty of room for growth moving forward.

"I've seen improvement in every game so far and we've got a long way to go," he said.

Last year, Brevard went 7-13 after winning just two games in the 2014-15 season. They finished 5-9 in the WNC Athletic Conference, tied with Tuscola for fifth place.

Owenby has high hopes for this year's squad and given the output he's getting from his seniors and the expected development of the younger players, those hopes aren't beyond the realm of possibility.

"Everybody [in the conference] is going to be a little better this year. Smoky Mountain and Pisgah will be the teams to chase. But I feel we're much improved from last season. We really should be in the top three or four and I'll be disappointed if we're not. If we stay healthy and progress at the rate we're going, we'll be fine," he said.

 
 

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