Greenbrier High School basketball players Crystal Pryear and Deztinie Cotton could not be much more dissimilar.
Pryear is a senior, Cotton a first-year high school player out of Riverside Middle School. Pryear, a guard, plays mostly on the perimeter. Cotton -- 6 inches taller than her teammate -- camps out inside.
Cotton has been a welcome surprise, but Greenbrier girls basketball coach Dana Bull thought her freshman could do more during a game last week.
She got in Cotton's face, telling her she was playing soft. The ploy might seem harsh, especially considering Cotton's status as an underclassman, but Bull knows the makeup of her post player, and the team was locked in a tight game with rival Lakeside.
They needed Cotton to produce.
"Fourth quarter ... she came alive," Bull said.
Cotton scored 9 of her game-high 16 points during the fourth quarter to help Greenbrier put away Lakeside. The Wolfpack avenged a season-opening loss to Lakeside, and Cotton took another step in her development as a high school player.
"She's finally coming into the program," Bull said. "She loves playing all those big girls. It's only going to make her better."
That Cotton has played such a key role in the offense has to do with the changes it has undergone since Bull took over. Greenbrier's girls were once known for their fast-paced, pressure-heavy style that relied heavily on guard play.
Under Bull, the team has taken a more methodical approach, which includes working the ball inside on offense. Cotton has benefited.
"Once you tell her one thing, she's got it," Pryear said. "You don't have to tell her too many times what to do."
Though Cotton has done most of her work inside, Pryear has owned the perimeter. The 5-foot-4 guard was primarily a role player as a junior. This season, she has looked for her shot, but not before a push from Bull and teammates to shoot more often.
As of last week, Pryear was shooting 53 percent from behind the 3-point line. She made five 3-pointers in a scrimmage with Cross Creek and in a game at Harlem.
After a meek start, the timidness is melting.
"Now, she's like, 'All right,' " Bull said. "She realizes what she can do."
The Wolfpack find a way to get Pryear the ball, springing her with off-ball screens or using a quick ball reversal against the zone. During a recent three-game stretch, Pryear averaged 18 points per game.
"I've been just hitting what I throw up there, I guess," Pryear said. "I don't know what to call it. I take way more shots than I did last year. I'm more confident."
Bull said her team hopes to finish somewhere in the middle of their tough region. That's just the reality of Region 2-AAAAA, which boasts defending Class AAAAA state champion Redan. A middling seed would give the team a manageable opponent to open the region tournament, where one win equals a state playoff berth.
With the help of a sharpshooting senior and a freshman playing above her head, Greenbrier could have the tools to get there.
"We're a very tight team," Pryear said. "If one thing doesn't go right, we work together to make it right."
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