Cumberland High girls roll into regionals, bringing 20-1 record

Published 2:30 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland High girls are enjoying a season to remember on the hardwood.

Since dropping their opener for the 2022- 23 campaign to Altavista by a count of 42-41 back on December 1, the Lady Dukes have reeled off 20 consecutive wins. That was highlighted recently on Feb. 11 when they beat Buckingham County, 50-42, to capture the James River District Tournament Championship.

The all-around chemistry and camaraderie has been apparent during the hot streak.

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“These girls have been playing together ever since eighth grade. Each game we’ve had our moments and they keep fighting. I’m just blessed to have this group of girls,” declared Cumberland High girls basketball coach John Trent.

A look at the Cumberland High girls team

Six seniors dot the roster for a team averaging 45.9 points per game and limiting foes to just 32.4 points per contest. The team leader is 5-foot-7 senior shooting guard Nalona Henderson, a speed merchant averaging roughly 11 points, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks per contest.

“She’s very special and came to us as a track star, not a basketball star. Nalona is the player that keeps us in line and keeps us straight. That’s a big help to our program,” Trent pointed out.

Another integral player to their success is 5-foot-7 senior forward Allie Hurt, a model of consistency.

“We call her our workhorse. Every time we play, she might come out the game for only two minutes,” Trent added. “She’s another one that’s very special to us, too.”

Kaliyah Braxton, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, is another player that has stepped forward and provided a veteran presence.

“I like the way she drives the basketball,” Trent said of Braxton.

Piling up the wins despite injuries

Cumberland has continued to pile up the wins, despite injuries to a couple of valuable members in 5-foot-1 senior guard NaKyra Bartee (leg injury) and 5-foot-8 senior forward Taylor Hughes (rolled ankle). Having them back in the rotation helps immensely.

“They’re still not 100%, but thank God they are back now,” said Trent, pointing to a few others that have raised their level of play while they were out, including 5-foot-10 freshman Maidlyn Adkins.

“I really want to take my hat off to Cadence Hatcher, a sophomore,” continued Trent. “She came to us last year as a freshman, went from Middle School and got pulled up to varsity and did not play J.V. She’s improving a lot.”

Another ninth grader, 5-foot-5 guard in Nevaeha Hobson, has quickly made her presence felt during the win streak as well.

“She started on J.V. and might’ve played four games, but she’s been on the varsity level ever since,” Trent commented. “That’s pretty amazing for someone that hadn’t been playing organized basketball before.”

Trent is excited about his team’s chances with their first regional playoff game set for February 23rd against the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between No. 5 Franklin at No. 4 Rappahannock County.

If Cumberland wins that game, then the Lady Dukes will be playing for the Region 1B Championship and secure the program’s first trip to the state tournament, according to Trent, since the 2016-17 season. That team saw its run end in the quarterfinals by eventual Class 1 runner-up George Wythe, 68-25.

What determines how far they’ll go?

“Defense wins championships. It’s going to be a different level of basketball now. You’ve played everybody in your district. Now you’re stepping into the region,” Trent noted.

“Every time you go to the regionals, you run into different styles. That’s why we have to focus on our defense and make sure everybody is where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. If we play good defense, I think we’ll be just fine.”