Grovetown High School head girls basketball coach Jamie Echols has wasted little time in building a winning program.
Last year, in just the school’s second year of existence, the Lady Warriors rode star center Ebony Wells to an impressive 25-3 record. There are plenty of programs that have been around for decades that never had a 25-win season, but Grovetown needed just two seasons to pull off the feat. However, many felt with the graduation of Wells, now at Florida State, Grovetown might have a much tougher time this season.
Yet, thanks to the stellar play of point guard Malia Kency and a nice mix of post players, the Lady Warriors are off to another tremendous start.
Last season, Grovetown started 1-1 before stringing together 24 consecutive victories. The squad dropped their final two games, including a disappointing loss in the first round of the GHSA state playoffs.
This year’s squad might not win 24 games in a row, but it could be primed for a deeper playoff run. After wins over Harlem and Greenbrier this weekend, Grovetown sits at 12-3 overall and 1-0 in region play.
In the win over Greenbrier on Saturday night, Kency led the way with 19 points, but the talented sophomore had plenty of help as Khadigah Sandifer chipped in with 14 points.
Sandifer is a senior, but one of the things that stands out most about Grovetown is the contributions from so many underclassmen. In addition to Kency (5-foot-5), Echols has a nice group of young 5-foot-9 forwards at his disposal. Alaya Canteen (sophomore) might have the most upside of the group. She is averaging just under 10 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. As she gets more consistent, which should come with maturity, she could become a solid college prospect.
Josalyn Scott (junior) also is having a solid season. She is averaging six points and eight rebounds per game. Heaven Carey (sophomore) rounds out a trio of very talented 10th-graders at Grovetown. She is averaging only a little more than four points per game, but she leads the team with 9.9 rebounds per contest. Another underclassman helping the cause is junior guard Dimara Thomas. Thomas had 11 points in the win over Greenbrier. She is third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.4 points per game.
But the star is Kency. She is averaging 15.1 points per game, 5.8 assists and 2.4 steals. Perhaps the most impressive stat for Kency is her assist-to-turnover ratio. She has 87 assists and just 29 turnovers this season for a 3:1 ratio. Those are numbers reserved for experienced veterans, not for sophomores.
Of Grovetown’s three losses, only one was by more than two points. That was a 63-52 setback versus a very athletic Cross Creek team. With one regular season game left, I would not be shocked if Grovetown has 20 wins before we even get to the postseason. Certainly they would love to still have Ebony Wells, but it is also fun to watch the Lady Warriors’ young squad develop this season. With five of their top six scorers being underclassmen, including three terrific sophomores, it is a safe bet to say Grovetown has plenty of success coming for the next couple of years.
Spring football ahead for league
In just a few years, the Columbia Area Youth Football Association has grown by leaps and bounds. In the league’s inaugural season in 2008, there were just 86 players and one age division. Five years later, the league has more than 500 players and offers spring football to ages 6-14.
If you have a child who would like to play this season, there is still time to sign up. Registration runs through Sunday. You can register at www.cayfafootball.com or in person from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday at Sports Authority on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway.
Also, Sports Authority is giving all CAYFA players and their families a 20-percent discount on their entire purchase Saturday and Sunday.