Heavy graduation losses sometimes translate into more L's in the win-loss column. But after losing three vital players from last season's team to graduation, West Ashley girls' basketball coach Maria Williams can look at her team's performance this season and still smile. The Wildcats head into tonight's second-round action of the Class AAAA playoffs with a 19-4 record. The Wildcats travel to North Augusta for a 7 p.m. showdown.
Last year was the most memorable season the girls program had experienced since the school opened in time for the 2000-01 academic year. The Wildcats won their first region title and their first playoff game.
"I'm a bit surprised by our success," said Williams, whose team finished with a 19-5 record last season. "I still knew we had a good team although we lost Chentieh Ladson, Adrianne Wright and Kyana Jenkins. We were bringing back only two starters and I didn't know if they could anchor the team."
The two returners have been more than capable anchors. Freshman Dekeiya Cohen has all-region and all-state potential, averaging 16.7 points and 11 rebounds per game. She was spectacular in Tuesday's first-round victory over West Florence. She collected 16 points, 19 rebounds and blocked six shots.
"She's going to be great," Williams said of Cohen, the sister of former West Ashley star quarterback K.J. Cohen. "Clemson's already interested in her, and Boston College is, too."
The other returning starter, Morgan Doctor, is only a sophomore. She's averaging 11.4 points and four steals per game.
"She and Dekeiya have been able to click," Williams said. "Morgan runs the show. She runs and guns, but when the ball is in her hands, we're more settled, more organized on offense."
West Ashley made it to the third round of the playoffs last year, losing, 70-47, to Dutch Fork in the third round. This season, West Ashley gets a big test in the second round when it plays at North Augusta.
"They are a pretty solid team." Williams said of North Augusta, which enters with a 19-3 record. "I've got to gather some film and scouting reports on them. I know they have a girl (Kayla West) who scored 28 points against Blythewood in the first round. Last year, we made it through the first two rounds and then we faced Dutch Fork, and wow ... the cards didn't stack up well."
The loss to Dutch Fork denied West Ashley its first 20-victory season. But a win tonight would give the team another milestone -- 20 victories -- and a date in the third round of the playoffs.