11/22/11 — Young Saints must mature quickly

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Young Saints must mature quickly

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 22, 2011 1:48 PM

Ricky Lofton knows time is of the essence. With just two returners, and a squad full of sophomores and juniors, the veteran Southern Wayne girls' basketball coach knows he has plenty of teaching to do.

The Saints open Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference play Dec. 13 at Triton, and the first two weeks of practice have shown Lofton just how young his team is.

Southern Wayne finished 6-14 overall last season including a 4-8 mark in ECC play. The Saints' season ended with a loss to North Lenoir in the opening round of the ECC tournament.

"This is really my JV group from last year that has moved up to the varsity level," Lofton said. "The game is so much faster for them. They're struggling to understand that you have to think and react quicker. We can coach and put stuff out there, but somewhere down the line they have to understand what it's going to take.

"Hopefully, by the time conference play rolls around we'll be doing better."

Limited in depth at the guard spot, Southern Wayne must replace floor general Kanesha Jones along with leading scorer Danielle Carlton. Junior forward Jane Hamilton, one of the Saints' two returning players, showed flashes of promise at the end of last season.

Lofton hopes Hamilton can continue to develop the potential she demonstrated a year ago and perhaps coax the same type of effort out of her teammates.

"Jane's only been playing for two years," Lofton said. "She's come so far and last year she started posting up, running the floor and making good decisions. When she gets in the right position she understands what she's supposed to do and she plays good defense."

Finding a starting rotation is still a work in progress for Lofton, who has tinkered with multiple lineups in practice. Developing chemistry as a unit while seeking out some valuable team leaders have been focal points for Southern Wayne.

The Saints opened their season Tuesday against Jacksonville. The non-conference schedule also includes James Kenan, East Duplin, Wilson Fike, Jones Senior and the West Craven Christmas Tournament. The ECC should be competitive once again as contenders Charles B. Aycock, Triton and Cleveland return the majority of their players from last season.

"It's going to be a very tough," Lofton said. "Out of the conference most everybody didn't lose a whole lot. It's going to be a challenge for our young team."