Every team has a different DNA than that of the year before, says Catawba Ridge head boys’ basketball coach Brett Childers.
This year’s Catawba Ridge boys’ basketball team will be no different.
Coming off a program-record 20 wins in 2021-22, the Copperheads look to create their own success in the coming season with new strengths.
Catawba Ridge lost two starters in senior guard Carter Hendrick and junior forward Tyler France over the offseason, leaving the team without two of its taller playmakers. But the Copperheads will return with several familiar faces, including senior guard Grant Lovette, junior guard Zyan Hager, and junior guard Landon Foley.
“We’re a different team than last year,” Childers said. “We’re not going to be as big on the front line, so the keyword has been ‘versatile.’ We’ve got to be versatile with our guard play and our forward. We’re asking guys to play multiple positions and roles. We’ll work hard on the boards. We can’t rely on 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 getting the rebounds every year. We’ve always been scrappy, but we’ll have to be double that.”
The Copperheads finished with a 5-3 record in Region 3-4A last season. However, Childers’ squad was unable to beat eventual state finalists A.C. Flora on the road in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament. This year’s region is loaded as well with a Lancaster Bruins team that comes into the season ranked in the top 5 as well.
Childers says there are eight returners from last year’s roster, including four new players.
The goals are simple – compete for a region championship and make the playoffs in back-to-back years.
And Childers has plenty of weapons to help achieve those goals. Lovette was last year’s leading scorer and rebounder, Hager will likely take a broader role on offense, and Foley is a two-year starter who will be expected to pick up points and rebounds.
He’s also expecting plenty of production from role players like sophomore forward Brady Ambrose, senior forward Owen Elliott, senior forward Tyler Kuhns, and freshman guard Lance Barnes.
Sophomore guard Pierce Morgan, the leading scorer on the junior varsity squad last year, will also be in the rotation.
“We take what they can do and build a style out of it,” Childers said. “We’ve carved out a good niche. We do what we do really well, they know our system inside and out. We’ve got older guys on our team now, guys who have been there for four years now. They know what we want to accomplish and how we accomplish it.”
Catawba Ridge kicks off the season with a game against Strom Thurmond in the Milltown Basketball Classic 6:15 p.m. Nov. 21 at Fort Mill High School.
Head coach Sheridan Pressley helped push her Catawba Ridge girls’ basketball team to a remarkably high watermark in just the third year of the program’s history.
And this summer, her Copperheads are focused on raising the bar even higher.
Just a few months after Catawba Ridge played in last season’s Class 4A Upper State title game, Pressley says this year’s team has the experience, toughness, and depth to compete with the best in the state.
“Talent is all well and good,” she said. “But if you don’t put in the work early in the year, it won’t matter. The work you put in now is what helps us contend for a state championship. They’ve bought into that and know the importance of what we put in, day in and day out.”
Catawba Ridge rattled off a program-record 23 wins last year, including a 7-1 record in Region 3-4A. The team defied expectations in the playoffs, making it as far as the final four before losing a hotly-contested battle to Westside (Anderson) 44-36 in the Upper State championship game.
Pressley, entering her second year as head coach of the Lady Copperheads, says her experienced players are growing into key leadership roles and can be a helpful role model for their younger teammates.
Enduring a long postseason push is an exclusive feeling that only some players can experience, Pressley said.
“They know what’s expected and that standard we hold ourselves to,” she said. “We want to keep pushing that high watermark, and we can push the pace faster.”
Catawba Ridge will compete this week in the Milltown Basketball Classic with a game against Chesterfield Nov. 21. Tip-off is expected at 8:45 p.m.
The standouts on this year’s roster include senior forward Brielle Windisch, senior guard Tatum Postel, sophomore point guard Makailah Davis, and junior power forward Morgan Davis, who all played their roles in last year’s successful year.
Pressley said Morgan Davis has been a key member of the program since her freshman year. She said Makailah Davis has worked hard over the offseason to improve her game from freshman to sophomore year. Meanwhile, Pressley said Windisch and Postel are quickly becoming team leaders.
“Having (last year’s run) under our belt, for all our kids, it brings a sense of ‘I’ve been there before,’” Pressley said. “It’s a teaching tool, and it helps us prepare better.”
Other important playmakers include freshman guard Kaitlyn Garvis and sophomore Lillie Peleponuk.
“She has the potential to be a big spark for us” Presley said of Garvis, adding, “It’s important to have people like that coming off the bench” about Peleponuk.
Pressley said she is looking forward to the season.
“We’re excited for the year,” Pressley said. “I’ve watched them grow so much from preseason to now. The leadership has been outstanding. Our young ones have jumped on board. Even though we might be small in numbers, we’re all locked in for this season and what can happen.”