The Prince Avenue Christian School girls basketball team is in a good spot as it approaches region play.
Through competition last Thursday, the Lady Wolverines stood at 6-4. They won three of their last five games, and even the losses – against Winder-Barrow (52-43) and East Jackson (52-51) – were close games against teams from bigger classifications.
Last Thursday, they went on the road and scored a 61-48 victory over Washington-Wilkes.
Prince Avenue Christian head coach Richard Ricketts said after that game that he can see his squad making continual improvements as the season progresses.
“We're getting better. We really are,” Ricketts said. “We're young, so we look really good sometimes and then we go through spurts where we look young. It's a good little group. We're getting better and better every game. We'll be OK by the end of the year, I think. We've played pretty well the last little stretch.”
The Lady Wolverines opened the season Nov. 18 against Brookstone. They won, 56-51.
On Nov. 20, they followed it up with a 46-39 victory over Madison County.
East Jackson served Prince Avenue Christian its first loss in a 68-51 game on Nov. 22. The Lady Wolverines got back on a winning note Nov. 26 with a 63-27 win against Kennesaw Mountain.
A road match against Apalachee resulted in a 56-45 loss for Prince Avenue Christian, but the Lady Wolverines won in their next game by defeating Commerce 48-45 on Dec. 7.
They took their loss to Winder-Barrow on Dec. 11 before knocking off Lakeview Academy 63-52 on Dec. 18.
Their second loss to East Jackson happened last Monday ahead of the win at Washington-Wilkes.
Ricketts pointed to Noelle Hynes, Audrey Vandagriff and Madeline Tebeau as three of Prince Avenue Christian’s primary threats.
“Noelle's been pretty steady for us,” Ricketts said. “She's doing a really good job on the board and shooting the ball pretty good. Audrey's done a really good job of running the point. She's just getting better and better and better. Then, Madeline Tebeau's kind of stepped up and started to take a little bit of a leadership role.”
But what encourages Ricketts most is that several different Lady Wolverines have made impressions throughout the early stages of the season.
“I never know who's gonna score 15 or 20,” Ricketts said. “It's somebody different every night, which is great and it's different than what we've had the last few years. It makes us probably a little bit harder to get ready for.”
This year’s Lady Wolverines squad features a younger lineup. It’s also the first time in a while that Karlee Armstrong, the program’s all-time leading scorer, is not part of the team following her graduation last May.
With so many new faces – and with the program’s most prolific scorer gone – Ricketts said there’s been an understandable adjustment period. That’s why the Lady Wolverines kept their offense mostly simplistic during the early games.
It’s also the reason they have largely worked on how to best approach critical moments in a game.
“We have very limited offensive stuff,” Ricketts said. “We've got our base stuff. What we're trying to do is situational. We've got to go through different situations – end of game, end of quarter – little stuff like that where you kind of take for granted when you've got kids that know what to do. But we've got so many new kids that you have to kind of go through it.”
The team’s focus on the little things recently led to big improvements in a key area: defensive rebounding.
“We've gotten a lot better at defensive rebounding,” Ricketts said. “That was our Achilles’ heel to start the year but, in the last few games, it's gotten a lot better.”
After more than a week away from competition, the Lady Wolverines will return to action Saturday against Tallulah Falls. That will be their first Region 8-A-Private contest of the season.
It will also begin a run of five-straight region games for Prince Avenue Christian, with Loganville Christian Academy, Athens Academy, George Walton Academy and Tallulah Falls again awaiting after Saturday’s game.
Ricketts said the region foes will be tough competitors but he hopes the Lady Wolverines can make their mark in region play this year.
“We've got a tough start,” he said. “Our first region game is against Tallulah Falls. They or Athens Academy are who we've probably got to beat (to win the region) and they're pretty good. We'll jump right in it and see what happens.”