Veteran seniors lead the way for Warwick

By on November 30, 2016
Warwick senior Rylee Derr, who averaged 18.6 ppg last winter, is a key returning player for the Lady Warriors

Warwick senior Rylee Derr, who averaged 18.6 ppg last winter, is a key returning player for the Lady Warriors

The Warwick girls basketball team won’t lack for senior experience this winter.

Returning for the Lady Warriors are Carson Armstrong, Rylee Derr, Taylor Gonzalez, Rene Ross, and Kasie Sheaffer, all of whom have seen varsity minutes since their freshman year.

Being their final go-around, they would love nothing better than to snap a four-year playoff drought. A year ago, the Warwick girls finished 9-13 overall (7-9 Section One).

Second-year coach Janelle Garber showed her enthusiasm about this year’s team as they prepared for the upcoming season, which gets underway next Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9-10 at the Cedar Cliff Tip-Off Tournament.

“The girls are working really hard,” Garber said. “We’re throwing some new stuff at them, but it’s nice to have a lot of experience back with our senior class. That’s really exciting for me have them back again. Great group of girls. They work really hard and they want to get better every single day.”

In 2015-16, the Lady Warriors fell just short of a District Three Quad-A berth, placing 23rd in the final power rankings. Only the top 20 advanced, with Wilson (12-9) grabbing the final spot.

Ultimately, three losses by just three points, and another by eight, loomed large for a squad that yielded an average of 48.1 points per contest. Only three players graduated from last year’s squad – Kate Martin (8.7 ppg), Katie Hipple (4.1) and Destiny Butler.

In the early going, Warwick has focused a lot of its attention at the defensive end of the floor.

“I’m looking to press a lot and just be a defensive stopper this year in the league,” Garber remarked. “So we’ll see.”

Opponents will certainly have to find a way to stop Derr, who averaged a team-best 18.6 ppg last winter. A Kutztown University-recruit, Derr had a career-high 31 points in a 60-57 loss to Section One champ Cedar Crest last January.

Her skillset is impressive, having knocked down 42 three-pointers last season in addition to taking the ball inside, shooting 104-of-137 (76 percent) at the foul line. She became just the sixth player in program history to reach the 1,000 career-point milestone last year. Currently sitting with 1,183 points, she needs just 22 to tie Alison Runk (1,205) for second place on the Warwick girls all-time list.

“(Rylee)’s just very dynamic,” Garber said. “She can shoot, she can drive, she can do it all. And she’s just a really, really, really strong player. She can do it all. She can post, she can rebound, she can drive … everything she can do and everyone knows she can shoot. She played a lot of AAU basketball over the off-season.”

Garber, though, is confident in the players surrounding Derr that she won’t have to carry the load by herself.

“Everybody has to step up to help her out because she’s going to get double and triple-teamed,” Garber said. “Everybody in the league knows she’s a great player. So we’ve got to work together as a team.”

The seniors, in particular, will be leaned on heavily.

“They’ve been playing varsity basketball since they were freshmen,” Garber said, “so just the experience that they have, their mental toughness … we’re demanding a lot of them this season.”

Olivia Bernardini, a cyber school student last year, is a senior academically, although she has junior eligibility, and she will help out, along with Abby Vance, a junior transfer from Lititz Christian.

“It’s nice to have (Vance),” Garber said, “because we don’t have any other juniors. She’s been working really hard getting adjusted to the program and the girls.”

Sydney Weismandel and Emily Williamson, who were superfroshed last winter, both return to help lead a solid class of sophomores which includes Abby Rodgers, Lillian Marino, Mackenzie Longridge, Abbey Finkill and Julia Forsythe.

“The other (sophomores besides Weismandel and Williamson) got a lot of playing time and had a really good season on the freshman team, so I’m hoping that we can go deep with our sophomores,” Garber said. “They were at everything in the off-season and worked really hard. I’m excited to see what they deliver this season.”

Williamson is among those who have shown a lot of development since the end of last season.

“(Emily) really improved in the off-season,” Garber said. “Her ball-handling skills, her shot … everything has just really blossomed and she’s doing really well.”

The Warwick girls will certainly have to blossom on the boards to achieve the kind of success they want this winter. Without a lot of size on the roster, they will need to make it a conscientious effort.

“We’re not that big, so we’re going to have to really focus on boxing out and rebounding and playing really good defense,” Garber said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time on defense this pre-season, so we’ve got to box out, we’ve got rely on our biggest people to rebound … it’s a team thing. We are going to rebound.”

That, combined with Warwick’s experience, could help make for a fun season.

“They all deserve it,” Garber said.

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