Indian River girls’ varsity basketball has undergone major changes. Four of last year’s starting five have graduated or didn’t return to the team and Sommer Chorman has replaced Steve Persolio as the head coach. New players and a fresh perspective could be just what the Lady Indians need to build a program worthy of competing in the Southern Henlopen Conference.
“Sommer is a great choice,” declared Persolio, “I’m glad they decided to stay within the school. She’s young, energetic, knowledgeable of the game and ready to go. The girls really like her, which is good because they can relate to her.”
Chorman served as an assistant coach for the varsity team the past two years, following successful basketball careers at Sussex Central High School and McDaniel College, and now gets a chance to establish a consistent program.
The vacancies created by graduates Ravin Robinson, Jessica Hudson, Stephanie Simms, Sara Powell, Erin Sager and Hilary Hawkins have been good and bad, according to Chorman, because it’s opened up playing time for the younger players — but there are a couple of upperclassmen to shoulder the burden.
Amanda Mayfield has returned, giving the Lady Indians a varsity-tested rebounding forward. She accounted for 11 of their 36 team rebounds and two assists in their 38-25 season-opening loss to the Smyrna Bulldogs on Dec. 6.
Only point guard Kiarra Graves returns in a starting role this season, but flanking her is a plethora of quick underclassmen guards fresh from last year’s junior varsity team, and some promising low-post players.
Graves’ game is fast. Once she gets the ball, it’s full steam ahead to the basket. She has the ball-handling ability to negotiate defenders and teammates. But it’s her ability to get to the basket that creates scoring opportunities. Graves scored a team-high 10 points on 3-5 shooting and hit on 3-4 free throws.
Indian River shot a poor free-throw percentage against Smyrna (33 percent) on 4-12 shooting, and to succeed as a young team they are going to have shoot better from the charity stripe.
“Right now we need to work on our free-throws,” said Graves. “We have fast guards (who can penetrate). All we have to do is calm down.”
Charne Rayne and Abi Buchler fill out the remaining two starting guard positions after playing almost exclusively on the JV team last year. Rayne is an explosive player, like Graves, and can dribble and penetrate, while Buchler provides the Lady Indians with a very smart ball-handler and a good shooter.
Freshman Marnisha Butler adds more quickness and another scorer at the guard-heavy position. In about 16 minutes of playing time, Butler hit 50 percent of her shots (2-4), and pulled down four rebounds and one steal.
With speedy guards in the backcourt, opportunities for Indian River’s low-post players will be bountiful. Sophomore Michelle Givans appears to head this unit. A diligent off-season training regimen with teammate Graves has paid off, though she will have to become more consistent around the basket. She posted the second-highest team rebound mark at seven but 3-9 shooting won’t be sufficient to compete in the South.
Smyrna’s duo of Shadasia Carroll and Traci Vodvarka combined for 24 points on 9-18 shooting (both shot 50 percent) and four of five free throws, and snagged eight of the Lady Bulldogs’ 13 offensive rebounds.
Forwards Jasmine Holden and Samantha Peitrak will provide additional rebounding and scoring from the low-post, though neither scored against Smyrna.
Early on, the Lady Indians can be expected to struggle, but Graves is certain that they can compete this year if they maintain a sense of urgency at all times.
“As long as we play 100 percent, there isn’t anything to worry about. But if you don’t, then we don’t want you here,” said Graves. “As long as everyone does what they’re supposed to do then everything will fall into place.”
With so many young players, competing for the South will be their main goal for this season. But improvement in a few key areas is necessary according to Chorman.
“We’re going to stress the fundamentals, but we also have to work our communication and ball-handling,” said Chorman. “Our guards drive to the basket, which is the result of their aggressiveness. We have to score when we’re that close to the basket.”