FLORENCE, S.C. — Neil Minton knew his team was going to look a little different this season, and that it was going to have to play a little differently as well.
The Florence Christian School girls’ basketball team lost five seniors from a year ago, including two key starters in Zoe Cauthen and Madison Stewart.
“Without having that 6-foot-1 athletic, long girl (Cauthen) down by the rim, it changes how you have to play defense,” Minton said. “It changes how you have to rebound.
“We also lost a point guard (Stewart), so now we have to share the ball-handling duties and not just rely on one person.”
Even so, the adjustments haven’t slowed the Eagles, who find themselves right where they want to be heading into Region 3-3A play. FCS brings an 8-0 record into tonight’s home matchup against Laurence Manning.
It’s the product of a strong corps of players that have stepped into bigger roles and accepted new ones, Minton said.
“We’ve had to move some people around, and it’s slowed us down at times just mentally getting in the right spots,” he said. “But the more we play, the more we know what we’re doing and I think we’re clicking at the right time.”
Balance has been a big factor. Through eight games, FCS has had four different leading scores with senior Corley Keefe at the forefront. Keefe sank a school-record seven 3-pointers against Ben Lippen and is averaging more than 13 points per game.
“Corley and Kenzie (Feagin) are such good shooters, and Corley doesn’t get enough credit for her passing,” Minton said. “Her hustle and her effort — she’s so much more than a shooter.
“But when you hit seven 3s in a game and set a school record, that’s pretty amazing.”
Keefe has been the high-scorer in three games, followed by Feagin and Kylie Stewart in two each. Feagin ranks second on the team with an average of more than 10 points per game, and Stewart isn’t too far behind her, averaging more than nine per game.
Keefe and Feagin have combined to hit more than 30 shots from beyond the arc this season as well.
“We’re really able to stretch the defense,” Minton said. “When you’ve got two girls that can shoot it from the outside as well as they can, it opens up things on the inside for Brittany (Williams) and Kylie. It helps get them more one-on-one opportunities inside.”
Williams also leads the team in rebounding, and the Eagles have done well in that area despite not having the size at the rim they did last year, but Minton has rotated his fifth starter and overall lineup at times to give teams different looks.
“Emily Eason is probably our tallest player, so when we go a little bigger, she’s in there,” he said. “Stephanie Dersch is a senior and is very scrappy, and we’ve also rotated Mary Margaret Sterling in. She’s a freshman guard, and it makes us a little smaller, but it makes us faster. We’re able to pressure the ball and run the floor a little more.”
Florence Christian and Wilson Hall have been the top two contenders in the region for the past few seasons, but Minton expects a much more competitive schedule this season.
“It’s going to be really competitive top to bottom,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of parity, and every night is going to be a battle. Our goal is to be mentally tough every night.”