Girls basketball improving

Published 10:23 am Friday, November 23, 2018

Davie’s varsity girls basketball team stumbled to 6-17 in 2016-17, and the War Eagles bottomed out last year, going 3-21 and 0-10 in the Central Piedmont Conference.

An unbelievable rash of injuries decimated coach Kevin Revels’ 2017-18 team. The season began with 12 players on the roster, and at one point Revels was down to six healthy bodies. Three of the top four scorers were sidelined for a long stretch, and the results were dreadful. Davie absorbed seven losses by 40-plus points, and it lost by 24 on average.

Last year’s top scorer, Trinity Hayes (12.6 points per game), has graduated. The No. 2 scorer, guard Rylea Carter, who missed the final 11 games with an injury after scoring 8.8 in the first 13 games, has decided not to play.

That’s a rough blow that will make Davie’s push a little heavier in 2018-19. But still, the War Eagles are set up to be significantly better this season. The opportunity to triple last year’s win total might not be a far-fetched notion.

“This group is much more competitive, and they play with a sense of urgency that we were never able to develop last year,” Revels said. “We were down to nine kids at practice (on Nov. 8), and we had the best practice that we’ve ever had since I’ve been here. We have a core group of girls that really care and really want to play basketball and work hard.”

Revels beamed at his top returner, senior Morgan Lewis, a third-year varsity player. Last year she was third with an 8.3 average. She banged six 3-pointers in a 20-point performance. She put up 17 points on three occasions.

“Morgan is accepting the leadership role,” Revels said. “The other girls look up to her. Morgan is certainly somebody we expect to play 28-30 minutes per game. We know we can trust her with the ball, and we expect her to score in double figures.”

A big leap is possible thanks to Emma Slabach’s decision to return to basketball. She did not play last year after starting on varsity for two years. As a freshman, she was the No. 3 scorer (7.5 ppg) while converting 41 of 110 3-point shots. She cracked double figures seven times and peaked with 18. In the third quarter of her high-school debut, she erupted for 13 points in eight minutes. She enjoyed a four-game stretch in which she averaged 14 points and hit 22 of 33 field goals.

As a sophomore, Slabach was second at 9.2 ppg, reached double figures eight times and peaked with 21.

Slabach was a star in volleyball, helping Davie win 45 of 53 matches in 2017-18.

“I think Emma is really enjoying it,” Revels said. “I think she really missed it. (Her shot) looks like it’s had a year off, but her range is not in doubt. We’re not trying to tweak her any at all. It’s just a matter of her getting back into the groove. She hasn’t gotten comfortable shooting the ball yet, but when she’s on she’s still capable of ripping the net off.

“She can pretty much do everything. We’ve put her at guard and every day she asks to play in the post. She wants to be physical, too. There’s probably nothing we won’t use Emma for.”

Another senior with considerable varsity experience is Maddie Tellup, a post player who averaged 3.4 points a year ago. About half the team went down with injury at one time or another, and Tellup missed the last five games.

“She is someone we can count on to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. “She has gotten better with her ball handling. When she competes against younger players, it sticks out that she has a lot of (varsity) experience. She’s going to be on the floor a lot.”

Junior Klara Lewis, who missed the last 10 games with an injury, is Morgan’s younger sister.

“She’s one of our best contributors in terms of 100-percent effort and working hard day in and day out,” he said. “She’s a great model for the other kids.”

Davie has a transfer who will be a serious factor. Senior Lexie May spent her junior year as a role player for Salisbury, averaging 3.6 points and scoring in double figures in all three meetings against South Rowan.

“She is a strong post player with great hands and a soft touch from 15-18 feet,” he said. “So she’s going to help us out a lot. She’s got varsity-level experience, plus she adds size that we desperately needed.”

Among the new names to know is sophomore Bella Kite. She played for Ellis Middle in seventh and eighth grades, attended Calvary as a freshman and returned home for her sophomore year.

“We have young kids who play with a ton of energy, have great athletic ability and are going to help us out a lot,” he said. “Bella has good size. She prefers to play guard, but we’ll use her at both spots.”

A major reason Davie seems capable of causing trouble for unwary opponents is freshman guard Olivia Tatum. She is a superior athlete with considerable potential after averaging 11.2 and 14.8 points for South Davie the past two years.

“Olivia handles the ball extremely well for her age,” Revels said. “She is extremely quick. She is probably our best on-the-ball defender, and she is a sneaky good rebounder because she is really strong for her size. So Olivia is going to be the kind of kid that over the next four years will really develop into a special player.”

London Dirks is another promising freshman guard who is drawing rave reviews. She averaged 6.5 points as a South Davie seventh grader. She missed about half her eighth-grade season with an injury, averaging six points in six games.

“London is like the Energizer Bunny,” Revels said. “She’s go, go, go, go, go. She’s going to be a great competitor and great rebounder from the guard spot. She’s capable of handling the ball. There’s little tweaks that we need to make, but she’s got the attitude and effort to certainly get there.”

Madison Singleton, a guard, and Kaylyn Nuckols, a long post player, are two more freshmen. “Both need time to develop but should become good players,” he said.

With so few numbers, it’s highly doubtful that Davie will field a JV team this year. Instead of coaching JV, Debbie Evans is helping Revels and Tim Kenney with the varsity program.

“Debbie is going to be as important as any of our players,” Revels said. “Because even if we figure out how to put enough kids together to have a JV team, this year we’re going to practice everybody together. A lot of that has to do with Debbie’s ability to work with kids and help them catch up. We can have Debbie working with the guards on one end, Tim working with the posts on the other end, and that gives me the ability to go back and forth.”