Girls basketball: Expectations changing for resurgent West Carrollton

West Carrollton senior Nyssa Banks, driving to the basket during a recent practice, has helped the Pirates to a 5-3 record after going 2-20 last season. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED
West Carrollton senior Nyssa Banks, driving to the basket during a recent practice, has helped the Pirates to a 5-3 record after going 2-20 last season. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

WEST CARROLLTON – As the losses mounted during her high school basketball career, there was a time or two when West Carrollton High School senior Nyssa Banks wondered if continuing her career was worth it.

This season isn’t one of those times.

The Pirates have won five of their first eight games following Thursday’s victory against Piqua and sit 1/2 game behind Sidney in the Miami Valley League’s Valley Division. While that might not seem like much to celebrate for some programs, West Carrollton is doing exactly that. And deservedly so. In Banks’ first three seasons the Pirates have gone 2-22, 7-16 and 1-22 game.

“We just don’t give up,” Banks said. “Our team has so much will power. Whenever we get down we don’t give up. Last year we would’ve given up. We realize we’re all in this together.

“It’s good to see everyone smiling. Seeing our coaches smiling after games. That’s not normal for me. Being a senior I never really got to see that. We’re having a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. We can’t forget that.”

First-year varsity coach Seth Addison has been with the program five seasons, including last year as junior varsity coach. When he took over the varsity he pushed skills work. He pushed mental toughness. And he pushed the ball. Running and conditioning have been staples at Pirates’ practices and have carried over into games with its up-tempo offense.

“That was one of the biggest things me and my coaching staff wanted to install this year. You can compete with anybody,” Addison said. “I just think they were hungry. These girls believe. In think the past they kind of fell into, I like to say the West Carrollton way. They kind of accepted being defeated.”

“(Practices) are a lot tougher. It’s way more running,” sophomore Ashiya Sales said. “It’s making us mentally tough and physically tough. Last year it was just a practice. This year we’re getting more shots up.”

Since 2011, when West Carrollton joined the Greater Western Ohio Conference, the Pirates have won four games or less in eight of those 10 seasons.

This season the Pirates are taking a page out of the boys’ basketball playbook. Last season the West Carrollton’s boys finished 17-7 for their first winning season since 2012 (12-10). Those seven seasons in between the Pirates won 23 games overall.

“I know the boys have kind of changed the atmosphere on that side,” Addison said. “We’re looking to become one of those programs that’s respected.”

West Carrollton’s best win so far was a 42-40 victory against Troy (5-3). Troy beat West Carrollton by 11 and 23 points last season. The Pirates current two-game stretch is just as challenging and gives them a chance to see where they compare to top area teams. West Carrollton lost at Butler (7-1) on Friday. WC travels to Sidney (5-2) for a Valley Division clash tonight.

The Pirates welcome the challenge.

“Last season was hard because it seemed like every time we went into a game we felt like we were about to lose. It was bad,” junior Taryn Dewberry said. “I like how close we are this year and we’re actually having fun instead of coming to practice and being down.”

Freshman Selena Frost leads the team with 11.8 points per game and is followed by Dewberry (10.8) and Sales (10.2). Sales leads with 9.0 rebounds, Frost averages 6.2 and Dewberry 5.8.

Nine different players have seen action in the first five games: Seniors Tiara James, Camecia Robinson and Banks, juniors Trinity David and Dewberry, sophomores Malia Duckworth, Ashley Williams and Sales and freshman Frost.

“It’s the coaching,” Dewberry said. “We have better chemistry than last year. We’re smarter and we just have fun, basically.

“I think we can keep it going. (Coach) said every time we play somebody we’re going to see their best because we’re a different team than last year. People will think that we’re the old West Carrollton and they’re going to beat us.”

One of Addison’s goals for the program is to win a first-round playoff game. A better record means a higher seed for the Pirates, who have routinely faced the Miami Valley’s top-seeded teams in past tournaments.

“We’re working together more and we’re giving each other more support when we put our heads down,” Frost said. “I like the chemistry on and off the court.”

The program has celebrated basketball success in the past. The girls basketball banner in the school’s gym honors sectional championships in 1989 and 1991 and a district championship in 1989. Adding another number this season is a tough ask. But the Pirates aren’t counting themselves out.

“Last year we were looked over,” Banks said. " … There’s a whole lot of pressure because people expect us to fail. We’re ready to win. We have to keep going.”

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