Returning four starters from a squad that went 20-4 last year, the East Wake girls basketball team enters the winter season with elite ambitions.
“Our expectation is to win,” said head coach Toni Vick-Dupree. She has good reason to use a tone of certainty.
Seniors Kianna Wynn (13.4 points, 7 rebounds last season), Ciera Williams and Briana Holder, and junior Angel Rizor (11.8 points, 8.1 rebounds) highlight the Warriors’ roster. They’re hoping to build on last year’s second-place finish in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference and avenge an unexpected loss in the first round of the state playoffs.
They’re also looking to find a way past Southeast Raleigh, the defending league champ and last year’s NCHSAA 4A state runner-up, for the first time in a long time. The Bulldogs handed the Warriors two of their three regular-season losses last season.
Southeast has won the past nine games of the series with East Wake. The Warriors last win over the Bulldogs was Jan. 4, 2011, by a score of 50-42.
Forwards Wynn and Rizor appear poised to materialize as East Wake’s key offensive threats this winter. After helping the Warrior volleyball team advance to the second round of the playoffs this fall, the duo will enter basketball season with big expectations to fulfill.
Defensively, Vick-Dupree anticipates Williams and Holder, both guards, to be the main stalwarts for the Warriors.
“(Williams is) a leader on the floor, distributes the ball and has good decision-making,” the coach said.
Beyond the group of four returning starters, East Wake will try to establish a strong depth cast consisting of a number of underclassmen.
Vick-Dupree labeled Tamira Knuckles and Miaya McCoy as two emerging players to watch. Knuckles, a sophomore, will transition into a bigger role after “playing many defensive minutes as a freshman last year.” McCoy, a junior, will add “rebounding and toughness” to the team.
East Wake will open the season on Nov. 18 against Millbrook for the second straight season; the Warriors’ 50-45 victory in last November’s matchup proved to be Millbrook’s only home loss of the entire season.
The Warriors are scheduled to begin their GNRC schedule on Dec. 12 at Garner. They’ll then get their first of two regular-season chances to take out Southeast Raleigh at home on Dec. 18.
“As a team, we need to work on everything,” said Vick-Dupree, noting defense as a strong suit and limiting turnovers as an area of focus.
“Right now, we’re coming together very well,” she said. “We (hope to) continue to build a strong team bond in order to have a successful season.”