GREEN COVE SPRINGS - New coaches have a way of instilling new energy into their respective programs and the district 2-5A girls basketball arena features two new coaches, though both are well known …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - New coaches have a way of instilling new energy into their respective programs and the district 2-5A girls basketball arena features two new coaches, though both are well known in basketball circles in north Florida.
For Clay High, which has had a history of one guy coaching both boys and girls and years with a host of annual new coaches, former Green Cove Springs Junior High basketball icon Doug Deters, who patrolled the sidelines for the Cougars' boys team for years, took over the Lady Blue Devils duties (as well as being the voice of Blue Devil football on Friday nights) last year, went 3-20 and looks to be putting his Tennessee Volunteer energy into the task.
"We only won three games last season, and I own that as the head coach," said Deters. "Our core players; Teaghan Moses, Madison "Mad Dog" Kilgore and Julia Weaver also owned that, and we all committed this summer to turn this program around. We played 15-20 games in the month of June between team camps and summer leagues and also implemented a weight training program."
Opening with two preseason wins, a season-opening win over Englewood and a loss to Stanton Prep, Deters relies on sophomore shooter Teaghan Moses, a familiar face to Deters who had Moses on his flag football teams at Green Cove. Also, Teaghan is the daughter of Clay Athletic Director Jared Moses, himself a Clay High prolific shooter in his day.
Thus far, Moses has led the Lady Blue Devils with a second 22-point total against Stanton, a 42-36 loss, after she bucketed her first 22 in a 43-23 win over Englewood.
"The players we have now on the roster know the commitment that is required to rebuild this program," said Deters.
Deters, the forever optimist with an uncanny notion of his Volunteers football team beating Alabama every now and then, will need to exceed his three wins to earn the high school street cred. He will have 6'-1" senior Julia Weaver and senior Shandia Asbell in his holster; Asbell part of a long Clay tradition of athletes from that family; Boobie, Shannon, etc.
"The positivity and optimism around our program is night and day from a year ago," said Deters. "I am so proud of our players' physical and mental toughness so far this season. Our team goal this season is to be the most improved team in Clay County from last season to this season."
At the other end of the county, Gussie Solomon returns to the bench for Ridgeview High with the move of Tyler Miller to St. Johns Country Day School after a region final run last year.
Solomon, who coached a handful of the now seniors on the Ridgeview roster in her 2021 year, is well versed in the Lady Panthers gymnasium and has the advantage of a three-pronged sister attack; the Blocton's Nia, Narissa and Nacoya to lean on for another deep playoff run. Nia Blocton, the senior, recently committed to Florida Southern College and is expected to dominate the paint while, in a 25-0 opening quarter against Keystone Heights to a 53-10 win, it was sister Nacoya Blocton, the junior, who ran the ship and executed the Godzilla pressure attack on defense that Solomon likes.
The fourth element of the Solomon full-court press is sophomore Mighty Mite Emma Rayes, who at just 5'-2", is a menace on the halfcourt traps with her speed, dexterity and ability to get her hands on the ball without the concurrent body foul.
Against Keystone Heights, the plan was flawless to the point that the varsity sat for three quarters after the explosive opening stanza. Rayes was a prolific three-point shooter last year as the season shifted to the second half after finding her symbiosis with seniors Alyssa Sherman and Payton Miller.
In game two, the attack rolled to a 17-7 first-quarter lead but got stifled 18-9 to the half. Providence, with seasons of 22-6 last year, 20-6 in 2021, and a 3A Final Four finish last year, answered the Panthers' quarter outbursts to the tune of overtime 61-55 loss; 8-2 Providence in the OT, that saw Providence's inside game up to the task of Ridgeview's inside prowess; Nacoya Blocton with 22, Nia with 15, Narissa with 14 versus Providence's Janie Boyd's 19, Janai Jordan's 14 and Kennedy Loux's 14. Boyd, a junior, was Providence's lead scorer at about 15-17 points per game as a freshman and has been playing since her eighth grade.
Ridgeview, who beat Providence last year 43-34, won the rebound battle 31-28 with Nia snaring 13 and senior Aniyah Campbell grabbing 10.
At Middleburg, veteran coach Lindsay Burghart opened with a 43-21 win over Baldwin and looks to lean on returners Desiree "Terminator" Hall (4.4 points per game), guard Juliana White (5.5 points per game) and senior bruiser Cheyenne Jenkins (7.2 points per game) to turn a five-win season around without lead scorer Brandy Mann who graduated and took her 11 points per game with her.
Burghart had a bevy of young players last year that got court time and that should translate to some experienced play in 2023.
Ridgeview, 22-8, and Baker County, 17-6, ran away at the top of the district last year, but a feisty Rickards team rolled Baker County 58-8 to get to the district final (lost to Ridgeview 51-44), but earn the region playoff ticket. Ridgeview should definitely be in the mix again, but Middleburg and Clay have some players that could create a stir.