Last season was a stellar one for the Woodrow Wilson girls basketball team.
The program made a return to the state tournament after missing it the previous year and even won its first-round matchup against Morgantown.
Unfortunately, the tale ended there as the coronavirus pandemic led to the remainder of the season being canceled the day before the Flying Eagles' semifinal game.
"We don't really talk about last season," Beckley head coach Brian Nabors said. "I think they do realize the situation and what took place last year just means we have unfinished business. I'm hoping and praying they're hungry after that and want that opportunity. But they're working hard every day and showing up and giving me 100 percent effort."
They didn't know it at the time, but that game against Morgantown would be the last for all-state seniors Liz Cadle and Victoria Staunton. Fortunately, those are the only two players who aren't returning this season.
Nabors returns a stable of players who played important minutes for him last season, including three starters in Cloey Frantz, Jamara Walton and Keanti Thompson, as well as others who started games including Adrianna Law, Olivia Ziolkowski and Camille Fenton.
"I feel good about our team right now," Nabors said. "Cloey Frantz is a four-year starter and has a lot of experience playing the one and two, Keanti Thompson is a sophomore who was starting for us at the end of the year and we're expecting her back with some more experience. Adrianna Law started for us some and has come back from battling some injuries last year. She's very skilled, can handle and shoot the ball.
"Sierra Conley will probably play inside out and might be our best shooter and she can play the four and five. Lataja Creasey is back for her sophomore year and she's a better player, probably our most conditioned one. Camille Fenton started early in her freshman year and she's going to be huge and give us a lot of great minutes. We just expect her to come in and be solid.
"I can see Cloey and Keanti being our two starters at guard, but I think we're deep enough that Camille, Oliva Ziolkowski, Jamara Walton, Letashia and Sierra could all be competing for starting spots, so I like our depth and the players we have coming back."
Even with the return of many players who played heavy minutes, Nabors is cognizant of the impact Covid-19 has had and that his team might not be 100 percent ready when it comes time to play. Not just from a conditioning or understanding of the playbook aspect, but also the leadership, situational awareness and in-game adjustment standpoint. Still, the early returns show some of his younger players embracing new roles.
"We've got to figure out what we're going to do," Nabors said. "We're going to be figuring a lot of things out during games. We're going to have to use them like practice. We're going to want to win them, but it's a different year and we have to be ready for when it really matters. If you think about it, they're all practice games until you get to tournament time. The most important thing is winning for seeding, but those are the challenges for us. That and filling the roles of Victoria and Liz. The biggest hole left behind was the leadership.
"That's not speaking negatively of the returners, it's just the personality. Liz's personality was high strung and she wanted it so bad where emotionally all the girls observed her going hard and pushing herself and encouraging everyone and holding them accountable. Same thing with Victoria. She was very vocal and helpful. I think Cloey is doing an excellent job in filling that role as a vocal leader. She's always led by example, but we have to get the others to do the same thing. Olivia's another one who's becoming a great vocal leader. If we keep getting that and the passion every single day, we're only going to get better."
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