With right around two minutes to go in the first round of the state tournament last season, the Lady Red Hawks held a lead.
Despite an early injury to then-senior Autumn Burgess, it seemed as if last year’s extremely talented team would advance to the second round for just the third time in program history.
Unfortunately, down the stretch, the Lady Red Hawks watched a lead and their season slip away.
In that moment it felt like such a disappointing end to what seemed like the most promising team and season since Rachel Bell wore the red and white.
Looking back now though, I am sure the Lady Red Hawks would love nothing more than to be right back in that situation with a chance to change it.
They will have the opportunity this season.
Despite losing three starters from last season’s team, including a three-plus-year starter at point guard in Allie Burgess, this Creek Wood team still boasts immense talent.
Brianna Burgess returns for her junior year having already scored over 1,000 points in her career.
Now another year older in every aspect of her game, she seems poised to take full control of this offense.
Head Coach Russell Wilson even told me “she is going to be, offensively, more of a handful than she has ever been.”
Big words considering last season Brianna was already the number one option, if we are being honest, as a sophomore.
Brianna will be aided by a few unsung heroes we did not hear enough about last season.
Laura Nichols, a travel ball teammate of Brianna, showed ability last year at times to take over segments of games.
This season expects her to do that for entire games and probably several consecutive ones.
Why? Because according to Coach Wilson “she knows she can’t just be that fifth starter anymore…she has got to step up and be one of the go-to girls throughout the game.”
Nichols and Brianna will seemingly operate like any great duo in any sport, they take pressure off the other person.
Tough to double team either one, if when you do the other goes on a tear.
With that being said, two elite talents will get you far, but won’t win you the big one, as we all know.
That is where the, albeit hopeful, emergence and growth of Bryanna Moore comes in.
Last season Moore was coming off a knee injury and due to the pandemic had not had a real or full offseason to recover and develop.
This year, coming off a season where she got better every week and a fully healthy offseason, expect to see the dominant physical post player she showed she could be late last year and as a freshman.
In fact, according to Coach Wilson, he said “she is one hundred percent healthy now with her knee…I think she is capable of getting ten rebounds a game and putting up seven, nine, ten points.”
She will need to do just that if the Lady Red Hawks hope to mirror last season’s success.
Finally, in terms of returners, at the PG position, I would anticipate a host of players to handle the duties.
According to too Coach Wilson, Brianna Burgess will mostly likely handle the ball the majority of the time.
Which makes sense considering any opportunity she has to touch it is an opportunity to score.
However, last season Brianna showed a real ability for moving without the ball.
When I prompted Coach Wilson about that, he mentioned that we very well may see Abby Owen earn herself some more significant playing time this season at the one spot.
That covers, generally, three to four of five starting spots for the Lady Red Hawks.
One of the biggest questions coming into this year will be who steps up to be that fifth and even sixth ‘starter’.
Last season on a loaded and deep team that answer was easy.
Nichols was your fifth, and Moore your sixth.
With them having to step up this season, however, the answer to that question may take longer than we would like to find out.
Luckily once again Creek Wood sits in an extremely winnable district and region.
The Lady Red Hawks return maybe the two most talented players in their district and region in Brianna Burgess and Laura Nichols, as well as have a favorable schedule, which you can check out below.