Westover's Ieshia Young is a two-time Herald Super 6er.
ALBANY — If you don’t recognize the Westover girls basketball team, don’t feel alone — and don’t feel sorry for the Lady Patriots.
They may look a little different, but the idea is the same — to win the state title.
“Some of the familiar faces might not be there, but the 10th graders are the new face of our team,’’ said Westover coach Lewis Smith, who saw two starters and a backup point guard leave for other schools.
Starters Kahler Fletcher, now at Americus-Sumter, and Cessily Colwell, now at Monroe, are gone, and Brianna Scott, a backup point guard, is at Lee County.
But Westover still has a pair of Super 6ers in DyTiesha Dunson, who is arguably the best player in this part of Georgia, and Ieshia Young, who averaged double figures in scoring and is Westover’s best defender. The Lady Patriots also bring back sophomore Shanteria Williams, who gave Westover a presence inside as a freshman and was a big part of Westover’s success last year.
“She could be a force for us this year,’’ Smith said of Williams. “She has a lot more offensive moves to her than people know of.’’
Williams might have a breakout year, but everything swirls around Dunson, who runs the floor. Dunson is the anchor. She led Westover in everything, averaging 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals a game, and Young and Williams give Smith a strong nucleus to make another run.
And Lewis believes in his young kids, untested newcomers Lewis believes can fill in the other roles on the team.
Sophomores Achanti Layfield, a 5-foot-2 guard, Denae Cheatham, a 5-10 forward, and Mykesa Smith, a 5-5 guard, will all see playing time, and freshman AuBre’Ana Moore, a 5-10 post, will have a chance to contribute to a young team with a different identity.
“I like the fight in them,’’ he said of his young kids. “Maybe it might have worked out better (because those players left). I was counting on these (young kids) for next year. Now they are a year ahead of schedule. They got thrown in the fire a year a year early.’’
And they have Dunson.
“She makes everybody around her better,’’ Smith said. “The way the team is now DyTiesha and Ieshia will probably score more points. Ieshia scored about 10 points a game last year, but she will score more this year because we won’t have as many people taking shots. The sophomores will yield to the older girls.’’
Still, Lewis plans to get points out of everyone on the court.
“Anyone who thinks they can just put a box on DyTiesha and stop her from scoring they will have a problem,’’ Smith said. “These 10th graders can score.’’
Westover went 24-5 last season and for the first time the Lady Patriots reached the Elite 8, where they fell to Region 1-AAA rival Crisp County, 37-35, in a heartbreaker. What made the loss even worse was that Westover handled Crisp easily three times in the regular season.
“Everybody is motivated this year. Everybody knows how it feels to lose a big game like that — to lose to a team we had beaten three times,’’ Dunson said. “It hurt. It hurt a lot. You never forget it. If we win state I will forget it. You don’t get over that. You don’t get over that until you do something greater.’’
Dunson thinks this year’s team can and will be better, even after two starters left.
“When I heard about them leaving, at first I was mad,’’ Dunson said. “But not now. It puts more pressure on me and Ieshia, but the younger players have worked hard this summer, and we are hungry after what happened last year.
“I think we will be better. Everyone is better, and everyone wants to win it,’’ she said. “When you see that team (Crisp), there will be a chip on our shoulder. This is my senior year. We want to win state.’’