The West Ashley girls basketball team has developed into one of the top squads in the Lowcountry. But if the Wildcats want to reign supreme, they must overcome one major obstacle — the Goose Creek Gators.
West Ashley travels to Goose Creek today for a Region 7-AAAA showdown and possible preview of the Lower State championship game. The Wildcats are 13-1 and No. 3 in the statewide Class AAAA poll, while the Gators are 14-2 and No. 4 in the state.
The Gators have been able to solve the Wildcats in the past. Last season, Goose Creek won both games against West Ashley by lopsided scores. The Gators beat the Wildcats three times during the 2010-11 season, including a 69-54 victory in the Lower State championship.
West Ashley coach Maria Williams said her team welcomes big challenges and strong competition. Both will be on the menu tonight.
“It’s become a rivalry, a healthy rivalry,” Williams said. “We want to play with the best and Goose Creek has certainly been among the best the past few years. They are the measuring stick. You gauge your team against theirs.”
The Gators have had great success because of coaching and talent. It certainly didn’t hurt that Aleighsa Welch wore the gold and black and played for coach Tim Baldwin before heading to Columbia to play for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
This year, West Ashley has the high-profile player in Dekeia Cohen, a 6-1 junior.
Just how good is Cohen? In the preseason, the state coaches association listed her as one of the top five players in the state. That’s an honor usually reserved for seniors. The list of schools that are recruiting her are impressive: South Carolina, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville and Florida.
“She loves competition,” Williams said of Cohen, a first-team All-Lowcountry selection as a sophomore last season. “She lives for it. We played in the Carolina Invitational and we faced some outstanding teams. She was so excited playing in the tournament that we had to calm her down. We didn’t win it, but we made a name for ourselves. We put the school on the map.”
Cohen is averaging 25.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.3 steals, 4.2 assists and 3.8 blocked shots per game for the Wildcats.
Her cast is very supportive. Jhanice Stokes is averaging 8.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Keosha Hardaway is scoring 11.3 points per game providing defense with 5.2 steals per game.
Jue McLemore, Aliyah Brown and Erika Wesolek also play well at both ends of the floor.
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil