State tournament appearances for the Greenbrier East girls basketball team are nothing new under head coach and current West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.
After missing the big dance last year, the Spartans may be primed for a return this year.
“I am always excited because I love being with the kids. Last year’s team was a real challenge, but we won 14 games and only lost five, which was really an amazing season,” Justice said. “With all that being said, a lot of those kids are back. They have grown up a little bit and they got a lot of experience last year.”
Much of the excitement in Fairlea surrounds the return of all-state sharpshooter Cadence Stewart and the addition of former Wyoming East standout, Daisha Summers.
“There is no question that Cadence is the leader of this team. Daisha is a really nice player and she is getting better,” Justice said. “We will be very competitive and we have all of the ingredients that we really need to be successful.”
Stewart opened the eyes across the state when she knocked down 60 triples as a freshman. Last year in 19 games, she converted 80 shots from behind the arc.
“If you free her up, you are going to get hurt because Cadence is a rock solid player,” Justice said.
The addition of Summers, who can score down low, will go a long way in helping Stewart obtain more open looks on the perimeter.
“Daisa is about 5-foot-10, with a lot of great speed and she is a good defender,” Justice said. “Her shot is a B-plus right now and will need to get better, but she can play facing the goal or with her back to the goal.”
While Stewart and Summers will be big factors in Greenbrier East’s success, the Spartans also have a solid supporting cast.
“Allie Dunford is our point guard and she has really improved. Everything starts with the point guard and she is solid.” Justice said. “Allie is a strong and gritty kid. She is a good shooter that handles the ball really well.”
Brooke Davis and Aubrey Glover give East another pair of solid players according to Justice. Both players are strong defenders that give the Spartans additional scoring threats.
“I also have two kids that can play the five and still be mobile in Layla Pence and Taylor Boswell,” Justice said.
Pence was a strong rebounder last year, but she has been slowed after suffering a bad leg injury over the summer in a side-by-side accident.
“She is struggling some with that, but she keeps getting stronger,” Justice said. “Boswell moves really well and she also gives us another outside threat. She has been really working hard.”
For a coach that likes to move the ball up the floor, attack and play solid defense, its easy to see why Justice likes the group he has this year.
“I feel like we have great depth potential to go along with those seven kids. From day one in practice they are getting better and fast,” Justice said.
Last year Greenbrier East was not the offensive threat that it had been in years past. If his team is be successful this year, Justice feels that has to change. He also feels he has the players to do so.
“I want to get up and down the floor. I would be first to say that defense probably wins championships, but at the same time, I want kids that can play offensively and score a lot of points. This group has the capability of doing that,” Justice said. I really believe we have a solid basketball team. Are they all-world? They have a long way to go to be that, but they are getting better every day.”