They've played together since the seventh grade. They hang out with one another all the time. They're, as one player puts it, "like a family."
But this family only has one year left.
For the five seniors on the North Augusta girls basketball team it's now or never. Either improve on their first-round 67-57 playoff exit to Spring Valley last year or graduate knowing that they left something unfulfilled.
"They want to be ranked higher than fourth in the region this year," coach Faye Norris said. "They're aiming for first and looking to go farther than last year in the playoffs."
They certainly have the tools to do it.
The Yellow Jackets return three All-Region 4-AAAA players in point guard Amy Caver and the team's co-MVPs, forwards Latrice Thomas and Jennifer Perry. They also return their best defensive player in Crystal Norris.
Coach Norris relies on each starting senior to do what they do best. For consistency, she calls on Caver. She made77 percent of her free throws last year and averaged 10 points and six steals a game.
"She's able to lead the team," Faye said. "She's a coach on the floor, and she's got good shooting skills as well."
Her daughter is the team's best 3-point shooter at the other guard spot. Aside from draining 3-pointers, her mother says Crystal also possesses another skill that is invaluable.
"She's the enforcer," Faye said. "She makes sure everything is right on the floor. She's going to enforce that they do the plays and everybody is in their place."
For most of the scoring, though, Norris goes inside to the co-MVP tandem of Parry and Thomas.
Last year Parry was the team's leading rebounder with nine a game. She also averaged 12 points a contest and had 10 double-doubles in the final 12 games of last season.
Thomas was the team's leading scorer last year with 16 a game. She was voted the team MVP in her sophomore season and has been all-region the past two years.
If one of her four starting seniors need a break, Norris turns to her sixth player. Alexis Griffin is the first one off the bench and possesses a nice outside touch of her own to complement Crystal's.
It's no secret that Norris considers the team's main strength to be its cohesiveness.
"There's more experience, and they play together well," she said. "They shoot well, and there's a lot of leadership on the floor as well."
But even if things don't work out quite the way they want them to, they plan on leaving behind a positive legacy. A legacy the younger girls on the team can build on for the future.
"We're like one big family," Griffin said.
"We want to show that we can stick together and be successful," Crystal said.
Reach Raymond Beasock at (706) 823-3221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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