NEW RICHMOND — It has been quite a run for the Wyoming East Lady Warriors basketball team over the past five seasons.
A state championship. Two runner-up finishes. Two injuries away from potentially two or three state titles. And in the end, six players who went on to play college basketball.
Now comes the aftermath.
The team must replace four starters and 75.2 percent of the team’s offense, and a senior class that finished 87-17, which is tops among wins and second in win percentage (.637). That comes on the heels of a senior class that was 84–15 and had the best winning percentage in school history (.848).
“There is a lot less pressure on this team,” coach Angie Boninsegna said. “I don’t know if the pressure was self-imposed on myself, because we had the kind of teams where you felt like if they didn’t get (to the state tournament) and win it, you feel like maybe you didn’t do as well as you were supposed to do, or should have done. But I am proud of what those girls accomplished and what they meant to the program.”
Their accomplishments speak for themselves, but the team loses 6-foot-5 enforcer and game-changer Emily Saunders, now at Tennessee; Jazz Blankenship, now at Concord; Brooke Russell, now at Bluefield State; and Katie Daniels. All scored at least 226 points last season. Saunders set several rebounding and shot block records, and Blankenship set the record for games played at 104 and many 3-point shooting standards.
But Boninsegna is not about to write off this year’s team. Despite having no seniors, the team returns Sky Davidson, one of the state’s top point guards.
She is the only starter back, and had a huge season for the 24-win Warriors (a season record during the record run).
Davidson averaged 10.1 points per game, 5.9 assists, 4.0 steals and 3.6 rebounds. She had 40 3s.
“We are going to rely a lot on Sky,” Boninsegna said. “She is our leader. She is going to run the offense, and hopefully she will be a perimeter threat scoring for us.”
Davidson has played with some of the state’s better players as a member of an AAU team that won an Under Armor National Championship over the summer.
Boninsegna isn’t about to write off her current team.
Many of the current players have championship pedigrees as well.
Sarah Saunders will enter the starting lineup. The sister of Emily, she doesn’t have the height but does possess the heart of her older sister.
“Totally different, including their personalities, Sarah is very reserved,” Boninsegna said. “But she is very aggressive on the court, she is going to fight for the ball. She’s a hard worker. I believe this is the year she comes into her own and finds her niche in the game.”
Hannah Blankenship, cousin of Jazz, returns and played in 24 games last season. She averaged 2.4 points per game.
“Hannah is a very good shooter,” Boninsegna said. “She plays hard, and she is a very coachable kid, and that adds a lot to it.”
Daisha Summer returns after appearing in 27 games last season (1.3 ppg) when she was basically the first player off the bench.
“Daisha has worked hard on her game,” Boninsegna said. “She is very athletic, she was that way last season we just had a lot of scorers on the team. She will do more scoring for us this season.”
Back also are Nicole Carte and Bri Cook.
“Understandably, a lot of people don’t realize we return some talent, because these girls were waiting for their chance behind some really good players,” Boninsegna said. “If we play hard, good things will happen. We just have to realize it’s a process, and hopefully by the postseason these girls will be ready to make some noise.”
Boninsegna said the team’s four freshmen will make an impact as well. As many as two could end up in the starting lineup.
Abby Russell (sister of Brooke), Kayley Bane, Colleen Lookabille (a cross country state meet qualifier as a freshman) and Laken Toler are among the team’s 13 freshmen.
The Warriors open the season at home against Nicholas County on Dec. 6 and then are on the road for eight straight games, including a match-up with senior-laden Westside, Bluefield, who has one of the area’s top players in Jaisah Smith, AAA power Parkersburg South, the Hoops Classic at West Virginia State and in the Little General Classic in Beckley.
2019-20 Wyoming East High School
Girls’ Basketball Schedule:
Dec. 6: Nicholas County, 7 p.m.
Dec. 9: at Liberty Raleigh, 6 p.m.
Dec. 11: at Shady Spring, 7 p.m.
Dec. 13: at Hoops Classic at WV State University, TBA
Dec. 17: at Bluefield, 7 p.m.
Dec. 19: at Westside, 7 p.m.
Dec. 28: at Parkersburg South, 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 2-3: at Little General Shootout at Beckley, TBA
Jan. 6: Independence, 7 p.m.
Jan. 9: at Oak Hill, 7 p.m.
Jan. 14: at Pikeview, 7 p.m.
Jan. 16: Bluefield, 7 p.m.
Jan. 20: Oak Hill, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23: Westside, 7 p.m.
Feb. 4: at Independence, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6: Shady Spring, 7 p.m.
Feb. 11: vs. Huntington at Little General Shootout at WV State, 4 p.m.
Feb. 14: at Nicholas County, 7 p.m.
Feb. 17: Pikeview, 7 p.m.
Feb. 19: at River View, 7 p.m.