Josey girls winning with balance, teamwork

No. 2 Eagles have 4 double-digit scorers, eying deep run

With their 67-61 win over Putnam County on Tuesday, the No. 2 Josey Eagles moved to 15-2, 6-0 in Region 4, and passed a tough test for the second game in a row.

The game before was a 57-56 win over No. 3 Thomson. Both games were at home.

The Eagles are winning with four double-digit scorers, none of whom are seniors, and second-year coach Nichelle Chapman has high hopes for a program that’s reached the semis in each of the past two seasons and won 2A in 2021.

“Our ceiling is high,” said Chapman, who was a member of Eagles coach Jawan Bailey’s staff for four years prior to succeeding him. “We’re trying not to put the horse before the cart, but if we take care of everything we can control, the sky is the limit. I can see us playing in the championship game.”

Wins like the Thomson game could go a long way in getting the Eagles to a fourth consecutive Final Four. After Thomson tied the game in its waning moments, Eagles senior wing Kayla McCord drove to the basket, missed a low-post shot but got her own rebound and was fouled on the put back, then made the go-ahead free throw with four seconds remaining. The Eagles held on for the win.

“That gave us a lot of momentum that we can hopefully capitalize on down the stretch,” Chapman said. “We want to keep moving in a positive direction. Thomson is a great team and they’re coached well. It took a lot of perseverance from us, a lot of resiliency. We kept our heads in the game, and we never let the moment get too deep. We were never too high or low. We were even keel.”

The bulk of the Eagles production comes from juniors Shaniya Sanders (14.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.1 blocks) and Keasia Henderson (12.6 points, 9.6 assists, 2.4 steals), and sophomores Kerry Fluellen (13 points, six assists, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 steals) and Za’Miyah Jenkins (10.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks).

Sania Hills (5.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, one block), Tamia Timbers (5.9 points, nine rebounds, 2.3 steals) and Clairrissa Winfrey (6.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) and McCord (6.7 points, three rebounds, one steal) provide senior leadership.

“It’s big to have them coming in, being positive and doing what needs to be done,” Chapman said of the team’s core. “Rebounding, defense, everything is key and it starts with them and goes down the bench. (The bench’s) role is to be ready when your number is called, and they make it tough for us to take them out. They do the right things, bring great energy and they help lift the staters up sometimes, when things aren’t going right. We have a great group of girls.

In addition to Thomson, the Eagles’ notable wins include South Carolina 4A No. 11 Westwood, South Carolina 2A No. 8 Gray Collegiate, and No. 6 Butler, with the latter two coming by double-digits. Their losses came to 6A’s No. 10 Lakeside-Evans in overtime, and by five to South Carolina 4A’s No. 3 North Augusta.

“Our goal is to play a lot of different opponents that can either challenge us, or flat-out beat us, when it comes to making a deep run in 2A. We don’t want anything to be a cakewalk. If you deal with adversity early on, we’ll know how to deal with when it comes up again, and we can move on.”

The Eagles have eight regular season game remaining, starting at home against Westside () Friday. They have rematches with Butler (Jan. 30), Thomson (Feb. 6) and Putnam County (Feb. 9).

Chapman wants to see the Eagles use these remaining games to get into postseason form.

“I want to see us strengthen our weaknesses, communicate effectively and leave it all on the court. If we do that, I think we can make some noise.”