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East Clarendon High School
Turbeville

East Clarendon girls ready for another playoff run

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Turbeville—Three points. That was all that separated the East Clarendon girls’ basketball team from playing for a state championship last season.

The Wolverines went 15-8 in 2016-17 and captured a region championship before falling to Green Sea-Floyds in overtime in the Class A Lower State final.

Head coach Mike Lowder only lost one starter from that group, and East Clarendon has already shown a winning mentality early this season. They opened the year in the Gatorade Turkey Shootout and went 2-1 at the event.

“The Turkey Shootout was good for us,” said Lowder. “We beat Darlington, but got blown out by Westwood, who has four Division-I players on their team. Then we turned around and beat Lamar.”

The Wolverines followed that up by knocking off Class AAA Manning on the road by 12 points. Unfortunately, they dropped the second game of the home-and-home series to the Monarchs by two points.

“One of our goals this year was to at least split with the teams that beat us last year, and we did that with Manning,” said Lowder.

“We may be a tad above where we were at this time last year. The expectations were so high so when you have a letdown, everyone wonders what’s going on. I look back at last year and we were below .500 at this point. Things are going well. The community support has been great. We had to lock the gym because we couldn’t let any more people in against Manning.”

As good as the results have been so far, there is still plenty to improve upon. East Clarendon has struggled at the foul line, shooting just 38 percent as a team, while turning the ball over at an alarmingly high rate.

“The only game we shot free throws well was at Lamar. We were 16-of-25, which is incredible for us. Even with an experienced team on the floor, we’re turning the ball over 27 times a game. It’s not really pressure that’s causing that. We’re just doing some silly things. That’s not going to cut it,” Lowder said.

The Wolverines have two seniors in the starting lineup in guards Caitlin Timmons and Gracen Watts, who each made the all-state team a season ago.

“They’re contributing, but not the 12 points each like last year,” Lowder said. “I’m hoping that spark is going to be reignited and we’re going to take off.”

Also back is eighth-grade point guard Talaysia Cooper, who should be one of the top players in the state by the time she graduates.

Down low, sophomore Valencia Garris returns and is averaging a double-double for the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds a night.

“She’s been pulling the weight this year. She has done nothing but get better since last year,” Lowder said.

Junior forward Britni Anderson has moved into the starting lineup and has been a pleasant surprise, scoring six points per game while pulling down 11 rebounds. Sophomore Rhamey Floyd has also seen plenty of action in the post.

“My two six-footers have been great. At Manning, they had 20 points between them. If we get that kind of production out of our post players, we should win every game we play. Britni worked pretty hard over the summer and got a lot better. She’s been steady,” Lowder said.

Eighth-grade guard Liberty Whack has earned her way into the rotation as well.

“She’s pretty athletic and her sister played at East Clarendon about six years ago. She shoots well and she can get a rebound quicker than anybody. She won’t be a liability when she’s in there,” Lowder said.

Other players on the roster include freshman forward Kirby Floyd and seniors Shannon Scott, Quanisha Rhodes and Gadasia Blanding.

East Clarendon will compete in the Kingstree Christmas Tournament and wrap up non-conference play against Lamar on Jan. 5. In the region, it should again come down to the Wolverines and Green Sea-Floyds for supremacy. They face off in Turbeville on Jan. 23.

 

East Clarendon’s Cooper on path to greatness

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Turbeville—The East Clarendon girls’ basketball team had a renaissance of sorts last season, going from one win in 2015-16 to 15 a year ago.

One of the main reasons for that turnaround was the emergence of Talaysia Cooper, one of the best players in the classification as a seventh-grader.

The 5’11point guard can do it all for the Wolverines, and she has picked up right where she left off last year. In helping the team to a 4-2 record already, Cooper is averaging 23 points, nine rebounds and three assists per game.

“She’s grown about two inches since last year and is right up there finger-rolling the ball at the rim,” head coach Mike Lowder said. “We’re putting her on the floor in different spots because I’m trying to take as much pressure off her as I can. She’s so hard on herself but she never backs down.”

Word of her play spread throughout the Pee Dee region last winter, and fans packed the gym nightly to catch a glimpse of the future star. Cooper continued to develop this past summer and caught the attention of one person who recently guided her team to a National Championship.

“Carolina is in touch with me about twice a month about her, ever since she went to camp there and Dawn Staley saw her. We’ve been to two of their practices and they have been keeping up with her,” Lowder said.

Cooper still has plenty of skills to work on, but it’s obvious the potential is there. She has the ability to handle the ball on the perimeter but is also blessed with the size to play in the post.

 Her recruitment has begun to pick up, and she hasn’t even reached high school yet. It’s a safe bet that all of South Carolina will know her name when everything is said and done – even if that’s four years from now.

“Charleston Southern wants her real bad, but [making a decision is] a long way away. North Carolina, UNC-Wilmington and a lot of smaller schools are interested. Before it’s over with, if she keeps her head on right, she’ll be a premier player,” Lowder said.

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