By John Cate
With one exception, none of the local high school basketball teams plan to start their seasons until Thanksgiving week, but there are no such constraints when football isn’t a consideration.
With that in mind, the Surry Runnin’ Patriots, the county’s high school program for homeschool students, got its season under way last weekend.
Surry’s girls team opened the year on Friday and Saturday by competing in a preseason tournament in Greensboro, then kicked off its regular season in earnest on Tuesday night, falling 55-30 to the Blue Ridge Home Educators of Hillsville, Virginia.
Head coach Todd Hill says that his Lady Patriots are beginning the 2015-16 season as a team in transition. Surry lost several long-time key performers from last year’s team, and have just seven players on this year’s roster, all of them classified as freshmen and sophomores.
“We graduated five seniors last year, and four of them were all-conference players,” said Hill. “They scored about 3,000 points between them in their careers. It’s a lot to lose at one time.
“It’s not that we don’t have talent. We do have talent and a good core, but we’re young. It will come. I just don’t know if it will be two weeks or two months. How much sweat we put on the floor will decide how quickly it comes.”
Making matters tougher for Hill in the game with Blue Ridge was that one of his five starters is nursing an injury and didn’t have medical clearance to play. He hopes to have her back before the end of the week, but the injury meant the Lady Patriots had to battle a more experienced team with just six available players. Conditioning and avoiding foul trouble will be a focus for Surry throughout the season.
“We condition very hard to be prepared for that,” said Hill. “We might play a team that is more talented than we are, but we won’t play one who is better conditioned.”
When at full strength, the Lady Patriots will utilize a three-guard offense. Krissa Hill, Jill Boyd and Trinity Thompson will make up the backcourt, with Jenny Brown and Lydia Clayton in the post. The two reserves are Alexus Timmons and Danielle Gottfried. With Hill out due to injury on Tuesday night, Timmons stepped into the starting lineup.
Coach Hill said that all three of his guards have strong points to their game. Both Krissa Hill and Boyd shoot the ball well, and Thompson takes the ball to the rim well. Boyd was the team’s leading scorer against Blue Ridge, with 10 points, and Thompson tied for the team lead in rebounds with eight.
In the frontcourt, he said that Brown, who had eight points and eight rebounds in the game with Blue Ridge, was a very important part of the team.
“She’s undersized for a post player, but really physical and handles the ball well,” the coach said. “We know we can put her in there against a bigger player and she’ll handle it. We ask a lot of her, and she always does a good job.”
Clayton is a newcomer to the program, having transfered to Surry County from the Virginia Beach area. She will mostly work out of the center position for the Lady Patriots.
“She has a nice shot and runs the floor well,” said Coach Hill.
Timmons is another member of the team who has been battling a minor injury, but has been able to take part in the games. Right now, the coach uses her off the bench mostly to provide a boost on the defensive end of the court, but he thinks she will step up her game offensively, as well.
Gottfried is the youngest player on the team, but worked on her game during the summer and has been able to contribute.
The team plays its home games at the Armfield Civic Center in Pilot Mountain. The Lady Patriots will host Community Baptist on Thursday night and Sheets Memorial on Friday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.