Pictured is players from the men’s team, Wesley Johnson and Alex Daniels, and the women’s team, Lucy Leen and Paige Van Gorden. The Pride teas will encounter playoff season in less than a month. (Photo courtesy of Matt Wiener)
Through 14 games, the Lady Pride are standing at a record of 9-5, which ranks 3rd in the Cap 7. Though a solid record, it is a downgrade from last season, as the Lady Pride were 12-2 in their first 14 games during the 2018-2019 season last year. The graduation of talent such as the Rose and Lauren Sande as well as Brittany Staves were huge blows to the Pride program, but the team stays hungry.
If there’s one thing the Lady Pride shows in their play each game, it’s heart. Even when a game may become out of reach, the team plays fast and up tempo basketball to cut the deficit. When the team plays efficient and sticks to their sets, it is very difficult to stop the Lady Pride from scoring.
The Lady Pride are averaging about 52 points per game this season. Most of their scoring occurs in the paint, where guards Lucy Leen and Nia Young slice through the opposing defenses and usually lay in the ball with great precision.
Both players also showcase their skills from long range. Just recently, the Lady Pride got back Paige Van Gorden, their most dangerous weapon in the post. The 6’0” power forward uses her size to her advantage and helps create plays for the shooters on the outside.
One common story in recent years for the Lady Pride is their rivalry against Southeast Raleigh, where recently Leesville has had a hard time keeping up with the Bulldogs. The Lady Pride have won only one showdown against the Bulldogs in the past 7 meetings. The Southeast Raleigh Women’s team is currently ranked fourth in the state.
If their record stays consistent during the back half of the season, the Lady Pride would be placed within the top ten seeds of the East, most likely in the 6 to 9 seed range. Where are the Lady Pride trending to end their season? Based off their record, a second or third round exit seems likely the determination of the team might get them further than what people may expect.
With an 8-7 record through their first 14 games, the Pride has encountered a roller coaster of a season when it began a couple months ago. Leesville’s tough schedule is one of the main reasons for their current loss count. The men’s team encountered teams such as Callaway and Combine Academy at the John Wall Invitational tournament.
Aside from their other losses to Wakefield and Heritage, the Pride also went up against the powerhouse of Millbrook in a very close game. Millbrook as of January 13 is 14-1 over the season, with their only loss due to the number one team in the country, Montverde Academy. Millbrook and Leesville own the top two spots in the Cap-7 currently.
The Pride have averaged about 70 points per game over the course of the season. Much of the point scoring has come from Carter Whitt, star point guard for the Pride, from driving to the basket or from long range. Deon Daniels, guard, steps up as a solid three point shooter, and Aaron Zemonek, power forward, can force his way into the key and lay in buckets. Coach Russ Frazier motivates his players to make big plays regularly, and create opportunities to win their games. In order to win, Frazier must rely on these players to get the job done.
The Pride are all about execution when they control the ball on offense. Executing plays, executing good timing ball screens, executing every scoring opportunity;. Execution is just as crucial on the defensive side of the ball. Each player doing their part in man or zone defense and making opponents uncomfortable with the ball benefits the entire team. Their man-to-man defense comes with a more aggressive approach, attempting to force a quick turnover and change of possession. Although their zone may look easier to score on, their players are quick to get to their spots as the ball is passed, and play tight defense.
What does this team have in store for the playoffs? If the Pride’s final record is resemblant of last year’s (16-13), most likely they will be seeded in between the 15 and the 20 spot in the East. Though they would face a team off bye, it is unlikely that the Pride will face the number one seed in the conference off bye for the second year in a row.
The competition in North Carolina High School basketball is at its best in a long time. Leesville is among the pool of teams looking for the 4A State Title, but in order to get to the later rounds, the Pride must stick to their plan of execution. That execution must roll through their star players, whether it is Carter Whitt, Deon Daniels, or Aaron Zemonek Otherwise, a second or third round exit is in their future.