The 2008-09 basketball season for all of the Briarwood basketball teams was scheduled to open Monday, Nov. 24, in Siloam with the both the girls and boy "B" teams as well as both varsities facing longtime rival Nathanael Greene Academy.
The Lady Bucs got a jump on the season when they traveled to Bellville to face Pinewood Christian in a pre-season practice game, but the Runnin' Bucs, whose football season ended just last week, had only five days of practice with the entire team before their opener.
First year Buc Coach Bo Fleming and his team's goal is to make the playoffs.
The Bucs, who are coming off a disappointing 8-18 season, haven't won the region championship since Coach Fleming's junior year and haven't made it to the playoffs in two years. Coach Fleming, a 2000 graduate of Briarwood, is the Bucs all time leading scorer with 1,833 career points and 1,133 career rebounds to his credit.
Although a young team, the Bucs have a solid base with three starters returning - senior guards Price Chalker and Ryan Gerlach and junior forward Trey Stadler. Chalker averaged scoring 8.1 points per game last year, while Gerlach, who missed much of the season with a broken collarbone, averaged 6.1 points per game and led the team in assists with 2.5 assists per game. The 6'3" Stadler led the team in rebounding, averaging ten per game, and added an average of 6.3 points per game.
"They've (Chalker and Gerlach) played for three years, so I expect a lot from them their senior year," Coach Fleming said of the team's only seniors.
Additionally, juniors Steven Gunn, Thomas Lynam and Carson Wiley and sophomore Charlie Cox have some experience and are expected to contribute to the team immediately.
"No positions are set in stone," Coach Fleming says. "You could see any one of them start on any given night, depending upon our opponent."
Holdover injuries from football have taken a toll on the basketball team. Junior Matthew McElveen is recovering from a knee injury, while sophomore Ryan Nelson suffered a broken hand early in the season. Freshman Will Souther is likely out for the season with a broken leg.
The Bucs have a lot of talent in players who will be playing more and more as they gain experience as the season progresses, according to Coach Fleming.
"We have a bright future," he said. "We have a lot of talent in our younger players. Once they gain some valuable varsity experience, they'll be contributing."
In addition to the two seniors, the Bucs have five juniors - Stadler, Lynam, Wiley, McElveen and Andrew Coxwell, five sophomores - Cox, Gunn, Nelson, Tyler Edwards
and Blake Sowell, and five freshmen - Souther, Tyler Daniels, Dalton Reese, Spencer Hadden and Ryan Pritchett.
Coach Fleming expects one of the biggest contributors to the team to be long time Lady Bucs Coach Clayton Parrish, who will be assisting during the games.
"I look up to him. He was my high school coach," Coach Fleming said. "It means a lot to me have his very valuable experience sitting on the bench with us."
It was the Lady Bucs defense that shined in the 33-25 loss last week to powerful Pinewood, always one of the top competitors in GISA AAA.
"We just didn't shoot the ball very well, but we haven't practiced shooting much in practice," Coach Clayton Parrish said. "The best surprise was our half-court defense. It was great. We had a few more turnovers than I like, but Pinewood does that to you."
The very young Lady Bucs' inexperience showed in the loss. The Lady Bucs have only two starters from last year's squad, junior guard Brittini Phelps, who led the scoring with 12 points, and sophomore point guard Maria Johnson, who followed with five points. Sophomore guard Emily Henderson scored four points in her first valuable varsity playing time.
"You could tell, with it being our first game, that we only had two players out there with significant varsity experience," Coach Parrish said. "Our nervousness showed, but the more playing time the girls get, the more comfortable they'll be on the floor."
One of the "thinnest" points on the squad is at post.
"We only have four post players on the entire team and of those four players, they've got a combined three years of varsity experience going into this season," he said, adding that the Lady Bucs did get into "serious" foul trouble at the position.
Before the half, sophomore Maggie Keene, who has some experience from last season, had three fouls, while senior Sarah Nutial, out for the team for the first time since her freshman year, had two fouls.
Coach Parrish is expecting a good season from his young team, whose work ethic has already proven itself.
"We've been working hard in practice and are in good shape," he said. "That really showed against an aggressive team like Pinewood. We pressed pretty much the entire game.
"I'm happy with where we are right now, but we need to improve," Parrish continued. "We've already improved a lot, and we have the potential to improve that much more."
The teams will not play again until after the Thanksgiving holidays when they play host to Augusta Prep on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Games will begin at 4 p.m. with the "B" Lady Bucs, followed by the "B" Bucs at 5 p.m., the Lady Bucs at 6:30 p.m., and ending with the Runnin' Bucs playing at about 8 p.m.
The varsity games scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 3, with Bulloch Academy have been cancelled and rescheduled for Jan. 19.
The Bucs and the Lady Bucs will face four teams in eight games in competition for this year's GISA Region 1-A title. In addition to Briarwood, schools that make up the five-team region 1-A include Thomas Jefferson Academy of Louisville, John Hancock Academy of Sparta, David Emanuel Academy of Stillmore and Twiggs Academy of Jeffersonville.