When Tracy Wolfe was promoted to head coach of Bandys High’s girls’ basketball team earlier this year, she inherited a team that had advanced to the state finals for the first time in 20 years.
She also took a Trojans team that lost its two top players – both Division I college signees – and had a crop of untested players on the roster.
But Wolfe believes that she also has enough pieces in place for Bandys to make another long run through the playoffs and get back to the state finals.
She’s also made sure her players know that.
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“It’s definitely a different year,” said Wolfe, who took over for Kyle Moretz after spending a year as the Trojans’ assistant coach. “Our expectations are always high, I do expect us to win and I do expect us to win out.
“If we can get some players to step up, these girls can go as far as they want to go.”
Last year, the Trojans finished 31-1, suffering their only loss in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A state championship game, falling to High Point Andrews 57-51.
Two of the key players from Bandys’ run, which included a 2A Western Regional title last season, moved on to play college ball: 5-foot-10 guard Madi Story, a four-time all-state pick and the Trojans’ career scoring leader with 2,156 points now playing for Appalachian State; and 5-10 forward Antaijah “Ace” Easter, a Western Carolina signee who transferred from North Lincoln for her senior year at BHS and finished with more than 2,000 career points between the two schools.
Story and Easter were the unquestioned leaders of last year’s team. That role has now shifted to Bandys’ two returning starters, 5-foot-11 forward/center Sara Goble and 5-foot-10 guard/forward Haleigh Lackey.
Both averaged double digits in scoring last season, and have upped their numbers significantly this season – Goble from 12.4 points to 15.9 points per game, Lackey from 12.9 points to a team-best 16.9 points per game – as the Trojans have gotten off to a 6-1 start (through Dec. 9).
But it’s been their leadership role with the Trojans where Goble and Lackey have made the biggest impact.
“Haleigh and I, since we played together in middle school, have been the leaders,” Goble said. “We knew that our senior year we’d be the ones the team counted on to get everything moving.
“It’s challenged us as leaders, but it brings us closer together on the court, and it brings the starting lineup and team closer together because we understand what’s going on.”
The key factor will be the performance and development of Bandys’ new starters and bench.
The Trojans are getting four or more points per game from five players – sophomore Kasey Medlin (6 per game), junior Anaiah Hooker (5), sophomore Kendyl Medlin (4.7), and juniors Kaylan Callaway and Camilla Drake (4 each).
Four of the five are guards. Hooker – a 6-foot center who transferred from Newton-Conover – is Bandys’ backup for Goble and Lackey in the post.
“When the guards do their job, penetrate and pass us the ball, that just opens things up for them more,” Lackey said. “If we’re scoring more, we can start kicking the ball out and they can start looking for their shots. When they see that start to happen, it’ll be a lot better for all of us.”
However, getting those players, as well the rest of the Trojans’ reserves, to perform consistently has been an issue through Bandys’ early-season games.
“I’m seeing flashes of it right now,” Wolfe said. “When it clicks, I think we can go pretty far if they stay consistent with that. But when it doesn’t click, we’re in trouble.
“I still think we can go pretty far, but we need to get those guys to step up so teams won’t double-team either Sarah or Haleigh. If we can get our guards to step up, we can go as far as we want to go.”