The York Comprehensive High School girls’ basketball team appears to be on the upswing.
Five sophomores moved to varsity status as freshmen last year are expected to play key roles this season, and former all-region post player Carrie Lee Lancaster returns.
In addition, several players from last year’s junior varsity are on the roster, said head coach Paula Blackwell.
That experience showed at times during last week’s Palmetto Rehab Tournament, where the Cougars managed a double-digit win against Andrew Jackson and were beaten by RJ Reynolds, an elite team from North Carolina.
York played with confidence and court presence in its 52-41 win against Andrew Jackson the opening night of the tournament.
After a hard-fought first half, the Cougars pulled away from the Volunteers midway through the third quarter. A basket by Meg McGarity, followed by Lancaster’s bucket from close range, pushed York ahead, 26-17.
On the next possession, McGarity was true from three-point range, expanding the lead to 29-17.
With Lancaster and McGarity answering every Andrew Jackson basket the remainder of the quarter, the Cougars maintained a 12-point lead into the fourth.
Savannah Palmer scored to open the fourth quarter, stretching the lead to 37-23.
After the Lady Vols sliced the lead to 10, power forward Heather Pumphrey scored on a putback. Later, with York’s lead cut to five, at 39-34, Pumphrey scored on an assist from Emily Mitchell.
Cougars mainstay Corri Peeler’s clutch free-throw shooting pushed the lead back to 10, at 44-34.
The visiting Volunteers hung tough but York held on down the stretch, thanks to timely free-throw shooting by McGarity, Peeler and Mahoganey Setzer.
“The kids are excited,” Blackwell said after the game. “They deserve to be celebrating a win. We didn’t score that many points all last season last year.”
Blackwell said the team’s goal defensively was to hold Andrew Jackson to fewer than 40 points.
“We held them to 41; that’s pretty good,” she said. “We have great team chemistry.”
McGarity paced the scoring for the Cougars with 18 points, followed by Lancaster with 13.
Pumphrey said she feels good about where the team is at this stage of the season. “Having so many players back from last year is making a difference,” she said. “We are playing better basketball this season. This win is a confidence-builder.”
Cassidy Hershberger, a long-range shooter, is one of several players making the transition from junior varsity to varsity.
“I have confidence in my shot,” said the sophomore guard. “I worked to improve my shooting in the summer.”
“We are playing well as a team,” Hershberger said. “We all know each other and get along.”
The Cougars ran into a perennial powerhouse in North Carolina high school basketball in the tournament championship game, falling to RJ Reynolds, 75-41.
Reynolds took charge early and built an insurmountable lead.
“Playing a team the caliber of RJ Reynolds will help us,” said Blackwell. “We were able to see how the kids responded to a situation like that.”
“We set a goal for the fourth quarter to hold them to a certain amount and for us to score a certain amount. We accomplished both goals.”
Blackwell said varsity and junior-varsity players are reaping the benefits of first-block weight lifting and practices.
“I can see the kids bonding together,” she said.
The varsity will host Chester at 6:30 p.m. Friday, with the junior varsity playing at 5