Cartersville brings back experience from state playoff team
by David Royal
Nov 20, 2013 | 783 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville lost to just one region opponent last year on its way to making the state playoffs, where it was defeated in the first round.

The Lady Canes hope to improve on that with a team that returns three starters and the possibility that a fourth starter will recuperate from a knee injury and return to action around Christmas.

“We have expectations to be in the playoffs and to get back to the state tournament and make a run,” said head coach Cindy Moore, in her second year guiding the program. “That’s our goal and we’ve got to do what it takes between now and then to get there.”

The Canes earned an 18-9 overall mark and a 12-2 record in Region 5-AAA a year ago. They return starters Kaelyn Irby, Hallie Wachsmuch and Maya Jones, who are among the team’s seven seniors.

She said Irby, the team’s talented 5-foot, 4-inch point guard, will once again direct the offense.

“Everything runs through Kaelyn,” Moore said. “She has so much ability. This year I have challenged her to step up her game intensity-wise and defensive-wise, and I think she has at practice and that hopefully will carry over.”

Irby has started three years for Cartersville and is a three-time all-county player as well as being named to all-region and all-state teams during her career. Last year Irby, The Daily Tribune News’ player of the year, led all Bartow County players in scoring, with an average of 14, and in assists, with four.

Also returning is Wachsmuch, a 5-foot, 6-inch shooting guard. Moore said Wachsmuch was “valuable defensively and is a good outside threat, which we’ve really got to have.”

The other returning starter is Maya Jones, the team’s 5-foot, 11-inch post player who received honorable mention to the DTN all-star team.

“She started most every game last year as did the other two returning starters,” the coach said. “She’s strong and has good size. She runs the floor well. We expect good things out of her offensively and defensively.”

Moore said the team won’t start the year with Stefanie Will, who was lost in June to a knee injury but could return around Christmas. “She has been an all-area player and is such a tremendous asset at both ends of the court. She is a floor leader and is the whole package. You never want anyone hurt, but it’s her senior year and we certainly are pulling for her to come back and join us for her and because, selfishly, she is such a great asset to our team.”

Will was named to the DTN all-county team last year and scored 11 points while averaging two steals per contest.

Moore designates as the team’s fourth starter Morgan Jones, the twin of Maya Jones who was the first substitute off the bench last year and also started some games for Cartersville. She also received honorable mention to the all-star team.

“Like her sister, Morgan has good size and speed going up and down the floor,” the coach said. “She is going to have to be a presence inside, rebounding, playing good defense.”

The power forward also is 5 feet, 11 inches tall.

Moore said she is looking at three players to fill the team’s fifth starting position, beginning with Kate Garner, a 5-foot, 7-inch senior. “She is a smart player who works hard and can do things at both ends of the court to help us.”

Also in the mix is sophomore Bree Cole, who just joined practice full time from cross country, where she went to state. “Bree played a lot for us this summer,” Moore said. “She filled in when Stefanie got hurt. She’s aggressive and handles the ball pretty well and can take some pressure off Kaelyn if need be.

“Our other young lady who could play is freshman Kimora McClinic. She’s a gifted athlete who can do so many things as far as defense, rebounding. She handles the ball pretty well and runs the floor great. She is aggressive and is somebody that can play several positions.”

The Lady Canes also expect contributions from the bench.

“In the post we’ve got Rachel Christina, a sophomore,” Moore said. “She has good touch around the basket. She’s getting better and just needs experience at the varsity level, and we’re certainly going to give her that opportunity.”

Christina, who is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, is the team’s tallest player.

Kalai Willis is another versatile player who will see action soon.

“She’s quick,” Moore said. “We used her last year as a defensive stopper at the end of ballgames. She’s a great leader on the floor and in the locker room.”

Moore also expects big things from Lexy Wallraven, a sophomore. “She’s a very hard worker and just needs to gain some more experience,” the coach said.

Moore said two other freshmen will be gaining experience.

“Monica Motuba is really aggressive and is very strong,” the coach said. “She runs the floor very well. She will be a factor. She’s not afraid to make contact in the post and really is a competitor.

“Our other freshman is Madison McKinney, a guard/small forward-type. She’s athletic. She creates a lot of things on the floor. She’s a natural leader and someone we can put in various situations and can help us.”

Returning to the program is Asia Murray, who played her freshman year but has been away a year. “She’s athletic, runs the floor well and just really needs to get on the floor to get experience.”

Moore said the Lady Canes must replace some offense with their final two starters.

“We lose about a third of our offense without Stefanie and Jazmine Baldwin, who graduated,” she said. “Somebody in our program is going to have to step up and make up for those points and make up for the defense and rebounding. We feel like we’ve got some players who can do that and we’ve got a good mix. We’ve got a little speed, we’ve got a little size and we’ve got a little athleticism.”

The coach is not expecting to replace the chemistry between Will and Irby nor their experience.

“You might get someone who has athletic ability, but they don’t have the experience,” she said. “That’s just something you can’t get without playing. It’s going to be a challenge, but I have faith Stefanie will be back.”

Moore said this year’s team looks to improve its game.

“I think we lost one game after Christmas until the region tournament. We’d certainly like to build on that. We’re not going to change a whole lot. As far as the personnel, the ones coming in are learning our system. They do bring in a little twist in that they have enough ability and speed and just being able to get up and down the floor and can ... maybe put pressure on the ball a little more than we have in the past.”

She said she is looking to her seniors to lead the way.

“We have seven seniors and it may be leadership by committee. I’ve told the girls this is their team as far as their senior year and they’ve had success all through high school. They’ve made the postseason. They’ve done a great job over their whole career and we want it to finish it as positive as they can.”

The coach said she expects a challenging season with Sonoraville in the region.

“As far as region play, I think everybody is chasing Sonoraville until somebody beats them. They were undefeated last year and not too many teams challenged them. We certainly want to step up and do a better job this year.”

Moore said Cartersville also is looking to get some seasoning through scheduling.

“We’re playing in a tournament starting Thanksgiving Monday and Tuesday with bigger schools — AAAA and AAAAA schools — and we hope it will help make us better. Then we play in the Rome Christmas tournament and after that we’re going to Rome to play Model, who traditionally is a very good team.

“We tried to schedule some opponents who are going to push us as far as what they do that’s maybe different from the region or in some cases playing someone who has some size like the girl from Sonoraville to help us.

“It’s a journey. It starts with practice but every time you get on the floor you have to get better, stay healthy and keep moving till February.”