HAMPSTEAD – Change is never really a welcomed thing but sometimes life sets down different paths for people to take, and Topsail High School girls’ basketball Coach Sarah Graves faced a, “Which fork in the road to take,” decision this past summer and after a lot of painful consideration, she chose the one that took her away from something she loved doing, to something else she loved doing only the second one provided a better situation for not only the present, but the future.
Graves left her teaching position at North Topsail Elementary to take a teaching position at Forest Hills Elementary, which was closer to her home and which – in the long run – may pay bigger and better dividends for her teaching future.
The most painful part of the decision was she would have to give up coaching the Lady Pirates’ varsity basketball team, and that was not easy.
So now the Lady Pirates, who finished 13-12 overall last year with a team of quick, smallish players, will sail in a different direction under a new coach – Jim Clanahan. Clanahan is a coaching veteran but most of his experience was with boys’ teams, so this is going to be sort of new path for him, too.
“Coaching basketball is basically the same whether it’s boys or girls,” said Clanahan, who was an assistant on a girls’ team last year under his son. “We have to work on and understand the fundamentals of the game, and go out on the court and execute them.
“This is an interesting group of both veterans and youth and they seem anxious to learn, and anxious to do well.”
Clanahan welcomes three girls back – seniors Mindi White and Victoria Reilly, and junior Chandler Skipper – who saw considerable varsity playing time last year, but he also has a group of young girls that should make the team better, taller, and deeper.
Early appearances indicate Clanahan (204-144 with a state championship on his ledger as boys’ coach in Georgia) is blessed with something that Graves did not have in recent past seasons – height.
Reilly and Mindi White both started last year, and both can play the game. Reilly battles hard under the boards while White is one of those players every coach wants – one who will go through a wall for you.
Skipper has shown the ability to shoot the ball, she just needs more confidence in her own abilities, and she could provide some valuable scoring. Senior volleyball standout Carlie Smith (6’2”) is out for the first time in three years and she has already impressed with her athletic ability.
Sophomore Kayla Hyatt (5’11”) will also be a major contributor. Hyatt had worked her way into the starting lineup last year as a freshman before an injury cut her season short.
Junior Reagan Holloway is another athletic volleyball player who is out for the basketball team, and she should be able to contribute both defensively and on the boards.
The future and perhaps the present lies in the younger girls who are vying for a spot on the varsity. Sophomore Kealey Wohglemuth has a year of varsity experience under her belt now, and she should be better equipped to handle the demands of varsity basketball.
Don’t be surprised to see two freshmen – Amberly Wolf and Keri White – getting significant playing time, along with Payton Schoenleber, Lauren Lee, and Emma Wolff.
Being new to the area, and to the East Central 2A Conference, Clanahan did not offer an opinion as to which were the teams to beat, but Northside is always at the top of the heap, and East Duplin and Swansboro should both be strong
The girls will get a huge test in their season opener when they welcome 4A power Ashley to Hampstead. That opener will be followed up by home games against 3A Jacksonville (Nov. 28) and 1A perennial power Pender (Nov. 30).