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Tide girls still on the upswing

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Galax went from 1-18 to within a win of the state tourney, and the Tide looks to remain on the rise.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

Galax girls’ basketball coach Jamie Dotson isn’t into predictions. It’s probably a good thing, because nobody would have foreseen what the Lady Maroon Tide accomplished last season.

One year removed from a 1-18 record, Galax bounced back by coming within one game of a Group A Division 1 state tournament berth, knocking off Holston and then Highland County in triple overtime before falling to Bland County in the Region C semifinals to finish the season at 10-16.

This year, the Maroon Tide returns five players who saw significant minutes, including three starters, and will bring up the bulk of a junior varsity team that won its district tournament last year.

But again, no predictions.

“But I will say this – we have improved, and hopefully that will show in the game,” said Dotson, a newlywed who coached the team last year as Jamie Keatley. “I don’t look at records. Last year we were 10-16. I won’t say we’ll beat 10 [wins] or not beat 10, but I will say that I think the games will be competitive for us.”

Though the Tide lost its second- and third-leading scorers, forward/guard Piper Caudell and point guard Caci Higgins, there is plenty to be excited about as Galax is a little bigger, a little quicker and a good bit deeper this year.

“Last year we had no depth off the bench, with just eight or nine on the team,” Dotson said. “We didn’t have a lot of speed on defense. This year obviously we’ll have more depth, with 11 or 12 on the team. This group of girls has been playing together for a long time, and they’ve been successful. So the future looks bright for us.”

Leading scorer Jamie Webb is back after averaging 10.4 points per game. Guards Janisa Lawson and Jill Bartlett return, as do forward Drew Cardwell and centers Kemberlea Simmons and Megan Spears.

Webb is a solid ballhandler and Lawson, Cardwell and Bartlett possess good outside shooting touch. Simmons and Spears should get support from a good-looking group of JVs that includes forwards Burgundy Bobbitt (soph.) and freshmen Allison White and Taylor Bryant. The latter two, along with guards Channing Russell and Bailey Shumate, were eighth-graders during Galax’s tournament title run last year.

With a full roster, one of Dotson’s biggest concerns is finding the right spot for each player. Aside from that, “We want to make sure we win the games that we should win,” she said. “I don’t want us to come up short in games where we should be producing more.”

Should that be the case, it won’t be because of a lack of hard work. The team’s attitude is the first strength cited by Dotson.

“They come out and work hard every day,” she said. “They don’t complain, and the competition level is high in our practices because of the numbers. They’re competing for spots, but they’re doing it in a healthy way. They’re pushing each other to get better, they’re encouraging each other to get better, and right now I’m very impressed with the way they’ve approached this basketball season already.”

Much of that is due to the success enjoyed in the program last year, by both the varsity and JV teams.

“I don’t think anyone expected us to do what we did last year,” Dotson said. “They are still high on life and they have confidence. You can see that in practice. They think they’re going to win some games, and that’s a big step in the process.”