‘The future of the program is bright’: Prince Edward girls build for future

Published 10:58 am Friday, February 23, 2024

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Even now that the playoff run is over, you can’t argue that the 2023-24 basketball season has been one to remember for the Prince Edward girls. They finished 16-6, 13-2 in district play, complete with a solid 10-2 record at home and a district title. 

The Eagles secured the No. 4 seed for the Region 2B Tournament, riding a 10-game winning streak. That was highlighted by beating Central-Lunenburg 52-32 in the semifinals and Buckingham 41-24 to capture the James River District Tournament Championship.

“The James River District is always a tough thing to win. Being able to win the JRD Tournament means a lot to our program, our school and our fans. It shows the community that these young ladies are capable of achieving great things,” declared Prince Edward’s Howard Paras, named the James River District Coach of the Year. 

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They didn’t just get hot down the stretch, the Eagles performed well out of the gate back in late November.

“The season started off well. We were 3-1 in our first four games,” added Paras. 

But adversity struck in the form of a season-ending injury to one of the squad’s top players.

“The girls struggled for a few games to re-define their roles. After a 2-4 stretch, everyone settled in,” Paras noted. “The girls have embraced a defensive mindset and that has carried us through the season.”

Taking on a new role

The catalyst for their attack was sophomore Aliyah Rachels, who was chosen as the James River District Player of the Year. Rachels entered the regional tourney with gaudy averages of 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and six steals per game.

“Aliyah Rachels just wants to win. She is willing to be the primary ball-handler, play in the post, get rebounds, defend the opposing team’s best player or whatever else is asked of her,” Paras remarked. 

Another talented sophomore on the squad was Anyshia Clark, who put up 16 points, four rebounds and three steals per game.

Senior McKenna Vogel, a multi-sport athlete who also excels in soccer, averaged six points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists per game.

All three — Rachels, Clark and Vogel — were selected First Team All-James River District by the coaches.

Prince Edward girls move on 

The Prince Edward girls took on the No. 4 seed Greensville (15-5) in the regional quarterfinal Tuesday night, winning that game and moving on to the semis. The semi-final, held Thursday against John Marshall High, didn’t end as well, with Marshall winning 98-24.  

But despite how the playoff run ended, the Eagles are quite pleased with what they’ve accomplished thus far and excited about what’s to come. 

“The future of the program is bright. Nine of 11 players will be returning as well as some very talented players coming up from an undefeated J.V. team this year. This is a hard-working and selfless group of girls that just want to win,” Paras commented.

“These ladies are the true definition of student-athletes. They have made a serious commitment to their education first and basketball second. As a parent of girls myself, I would say that is a strong reflection of the character instilled in them by their parents. I would like to thank the parents, fans, assistant coaches and volunteers who have helped along the way. Without you, this successful season would not have been possible.”