Talented Titans look to take their success to an even higher level
by Cliff Mehrtens

With winning comes expectations.

Fair or not, teams that have great seasons often are expected to be great every season. Gee, no pressure there, huh?

But as the Hopewell High School girls basketball team sets its sights on what would be an impressive third consecutive I-MECK 4A conference title, it’s not the same set of eyes looking.

The Titans lost to graduation most of the core of the past two teams that had records of 25-4 and 23-5. Coach Gary Richmond’s cupboard isn’t bare.

There are some talented carryovers from last year’s team, which reached the 4A Western Region semifinals. And there’s an influx of talent from last year’s junior varsity season.

“The key is to keep playing as a team,” said senior Sharee Boyd, a four-year starter and one of the area’s most versatile talents. “Be humble and not worry about what others are thinking. Be humble and work to get better every day.”

Driving the Titans – new and old – is Richmond, who is in his fifth season. He built powerhouse girls teams when Vance was a fledgling school a decade ago.

“He pushes us every day,” Boyd said. “He pushes everybody to their limit.”

Boyd is the returning centerpiece after a junior season in which she averaged 11.5 points, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. She’s a 6-footer capable of playing all five positions. She’s been all-conference three times and will take on additional duties as a senior.

The good news for Hopewell is that she won’t have to do it alone.

Bryanna Curry, a 5-9 sophomore with a splendid jump shot, will be the outside threat. Six-foot senior Tiera Burks is back to patrol the lane, where last season she averaged seven points and five rebounds.

Hopewell’s likely starting backcourt will be new to the Titans, but it’s not new to varsity basketball. T’Shea Glenn is a senior transfer from Concord First Assembly, where she averaged 9.9 points last season. Guard Quatavia Lynch is a senior transfer from Concord High.

Boyd and Curry gladly accept leadership roles, which includes explaining things to the new players.

“Basically (I’m) telling them what I know and what I’ve experienced,” Curry said. “Telling them what to look for and what not to look for. We’re a fast team this year, so we’ll keep pushing and pushing (the pace).”

Practices, as with most teams, are valuable learning time. Last year’s senior-heavy squad knew what was expected because those players had been in the program for three or more years.

“It starts in practice,” Richmond said. “The seniors last year set a great foundation about how to practice and about how we play. Most of the girls are coming up from JV, so they’ve seen how we practice and got a taste of it.”

Richmond stresses attention to detail, which he said is “usually what comes down to being either a good team or a great team.”

“Last year’s team was very smart, very competitive and skilled, but the one thing we lacked was team speed,” Richmond said. “Now, it’s flipped over – we have team speed, but we don’t have experience. I think we’re just as competitive. We’re not quite as skilled, but speed can make up for a lot.

“We’re going to have to learn to play team defense,” he said. “We’re still grasping that concept. It’ll come around.”

Hopewell isn’t easing into the season, either. The Titans have pre-conference games against reigning Class 2A state champion Salisbury, two against Myers Park and another against Concord.

“We’ve got a tough November schedule to try to get these things worked out,” Richmond said. “Hopefully, by December when we start conference (games), we’ll have found our niche.”