The news was as bad as feared on Monday as word came out that South Charleston point guard Kiki Terrell is out for the year with a torn ACL, her second in two years.
It’s certainly heartbreaking for Terrell, who missed all of her sophomore year while rehabbing her left knee only to injure her right knee just eight games into this season.
But if any team should be equipped to handle such a thing, it would be the Class AAA No. 5 Black Eagles (7-1) who have been snake-bitten in the injury department. Terrell’s injury marks South Charleston’s fourth significant knee problem over the past two seasons with junior teammate Mia Terry also missing all of last season. Graduated point guard Lavender Ward played through the second half of last season with a partially torn ligament of her own.
With a home date against undefeated No. 2 Cabell Midland on Tuesday, kicking off a second-half schedule that includes rugged matchups with No. 4 Parkersburg, No. 8 George Washington, No. 6 Huntington, No. 7 Woodrow Wilson and Class AA No. 2 Winfield among others, there is no time for self pity.
From the outset of this season, SC coach Gary Greene has spoken highly of the possible depth his team could have with the development of some young players. Over the first eight games, Greene has found playing time for reserves — in particular junior Maggie Britt, sophomores Daviya Leggett and Dasheya Booker and freshmen Mya Toombs and Kyra Brown. But with Terrell gone, it’s go time for SC’s role players.
“The kids off the bench have been getting more and more minutes and our depth is getting better right now,” Greene said.”We’ve got a lot of young kids and they’re getting better defensively, so our depth is going to get better.”
Despite the loss of Terrell, South Charleston still has plenty of things going for it. First, with the injuries to Terrell and Ward a year ago, junior guard Maliha Witten has plenty of experience and comfort in moving into the point guard position. Leggett, a long and lanky 5-foot-10 post player, started games as a freshman a year ago as the injuries started piling up and has state tournament experience, meaning, a few regular season games against some tough teams is unlikely to be too much for her.
Also, Terry has seemed to get more comfortable with every game and despite a bit of a slow start, has shaken off the rust and registered double-figures in scoring in three of the Black Eagles’ last four games.
“People forget that Kiki and Mia didn’t play ball for a year and a half,” Greene said. “But Mia has really settled in, the knees don’t bother her and she’s finishing at the rim now.”
And so another year, another injury at point guard and another SC team that is still striving for big things in overcoming adversity.
“We’ve got a lot of ground to make up to be one of the better teams, but we’re working at it,” Greene said. “We might be a pretty good team in the second half.”
The battles for Class AA-Region 4-Section 1 and Cardinal-Conference supremacy are in full tilt now with league play hitting full swing, but one stalwart in the battle is noticeably absent.
Sissonville, which lost three starters, the Kanawha Valley player of the year and the state’s leading scorer in Laila Arthur — as well as its sixth man — is understandably taking some lumps in the first half of the season. It’s simply not a place the Indians (3-7) are used to being. Sissonville owns the Kanawha Valley’s last state championship (2015), made the title game again in 2016 and was in the state tournament field a year ago, bowing out to Wayne.
Rich Skeen stepped down in the offseason after going 149-50 in eight seasons, yielding to Dave Sisson, a long-time assistant coach under South Charleston’s Bobby Dawson, Poca’s Allen Osborne as well as Skeen.
With six freshmen and a pair of sophomores on the roster, the Indians are still trying to find some footing. And though the process may be slow, Sisson believes the future is promising.
“We look to the bench right now and it’s a freshman or a sophomore,” Sisson said. “I’ve never faced a situation like this.
“We just have trouble matching up with some of these teams right now, but it comes and goes. [Herbert Hoover loses] Allison Dunbar next year, Winfield is losing everybody and we’ve got some really good kids coming up. We’ll be back, it just might take a little while.”
With the Indians down a bit, a three-team breakaway has formed at the top of the section with Winfield, No. 4 Wayne and No. 7 Nitro emerging as the clear top contenders.
With Sissonville in that fray and, along with Wayne, emerging from it a year ago, a sectional semifinal slugfest was guaranteed, no matter the seed. But this year, things are a little different.
Two of the section’s three ranked squads will have to play a win-or-go-home game just to get into the sectional final where a regional co-final spot is guaranteed. Needless to say, the top seed is already on the minds of coaches and players.
So in the wake of Winfield’s 72-44 win over Nitro last week, one in which the Generals went on a 30-4 run to close things emphatically, it wasn’t just sweet revenge from two losses a year ago for Winfield. Even more so was an early leg up on sectional seeding that will likely prove pivotal once the postseason arrives.
“Honestly, that’s something we’re striving for,” Winfield coach Kelsey Spang said. “We tell the girls every single game that we have to attack, there’s no room for let up. The end game is you want that home game, that home crowd. West Virginia is tough in girls basketball and we want any little advantage we can get.”
The Generals were the section’s top seed last year but fell to the visiting Indians in a semifinal, making a swift postseason exit.
But guard Mara McGrew, one of four senior starters, said the squad is determined to make amends in her final go-round.
“We came into this game knowing they were in our section and we lost in sectionals last year so that makes us want to strive even more to get out of it,” McGrew said.
Wayne’s 61-41 win over Gilmer County on Saturday gave coach Wade Williamson his 100th win with the Pioneers. Williamson has piloted two straight Wayne teams to the Class AA semifinals and has gone 57-7 over the past three seasons, landing a pair of first-team, All-State players in sisters Aeriel and Lakyn Adkins along the way. Both are gone now, but the Pioneers, whicj are off to a 9-1 start, don’t seem to be going anywhere.