If ever there was a time to celebrate small victories, 2020 has proven to be that year.
Childersburg (9-4) has won more than its fair share of games, but perhaps the school’s biggest accomplishment is playing 12 games (with one victory by forfeit) at a time when most local teams are struggling with two-week quarantines and near-constant cancellations.
“(It) is something not usually to celebrate and be thrilled about, but this year, to be able to play that many games is great,” Childersburg coach Gavin King said. “Because these girls didn’t get any summer games. … So every night, we still find things different that could be a weakness in the future, and we just want to get those things corrected as quick as possible.”
King said playing games to identify potential problems is even more critical this season than normal, given his 14-player roster includes eight girls still in middle school.
Although young, those girls aren’t just there to bolster King’s numbers. In fact, two eighth-graders, Kamareona Simmons and Rakiya Spell, have been starters all season.
Simmons has proven to be especially effective lately.
She’s scored at least 11 points in the last three games for a total of 47 over that same stretch while also recording 22 steals.
Spell hasn’t quite kept pace with Simmons this season, but in Childersburg’s last two games, the eighth-grader scored 23 total points.
Last week, King made the decision to elevate a third eighth-grader, Shakira Harrison, into the starting lineup in part because of her prowess beyond the arc.
“She’s got the potential to kind of be a girl that some of our guards can penetrate and kick out to against man (defense),” King said. “Against zone, I don’t know if we have a better spot shooter on the team.”
King said Harrison leads the team in 3-point goals, averaging somewhere around one per game despite not starting until recently.
“At this point, we are trying to expedite the youth-movement process here,” King said. “So all the younger girls are definitely getting their chance. … If those three girls continue to improve after this season, we will have very high expectations of them for the next four years.”
That movement has not been without adversity.
After blowing out their first three opponents by an average of 21.3 points, the Tigers dropped four of their next six games before settling back into a groove that has seen Childersburg win its last three.
“I think a part of being young is the inconsistency, and the season is very, very long,” King said.
King’s emphasis on getting through the growing pains all at once is by no means a sign he’s given up hope of making another deep playoff run this season, despite having only one senior, Lakenya Swain, on the roster.
That’s why playing 12 games, despite having at least six different contests canceled, has been so important to the Childersburg coach.
“She understands, definitely, how to help the younger girls get in the right spot. … She knows this young group in two, three and four years is going to be really special,” King said of Swain. “But she wants to win now because this is her last year, and I want to win now.”