On Sunday, March 8, the Walton Lady Raiders marked the end of the 2019-20 season, the third under Coach Matt Kelterborn, with their Awards Banquet. The team finished 8-18 on the season, with a 4-6 record in region. Despite those numbers, the girls made strong progress and consistently got better as the year progressed.
The girls improved their intensity just as region play began at the end of November. Moving through the season, the girls pieced together pieces of their “puzzle” and, by the end, found their identity as a team. One of the improvements in the second half of the season was a press that Coach Kelterborn implemented. The press would pressure opponents as soon as the ball was inbounded and force them to quickly pass up the court, where a Raider defender would be waiting to intercept the pass and start a fast break. The team debuted the press in their game vs. Apalachee High School in the Pope Holiday Classic and ran away with the game 54-16. From there, the Raider girls blitzed many more teams by forcing turnovers and converting their fast break opportunities into points.
The girls played their best game of the season against the crosstown rival Lassiter Trojans. In the inaugural game in Lassiter’s new gym, the Raider girls stole the show, dominating the Trojans 65-37. The Lady Raiders found another piece to their puzzle in this game, where they made 8 three-point shots. Many times, on the back end of the season, the girls would be in a lull in the half court setting but would find an open player on the wing and make a three-point shot to end the dry spell. On nights when they were hot from outside the arc, the other team could find themselves down by 20 or 30 points in a hurry.
As teams in high school do though, some teams were able to adapt to these strategies, playing tougher defense on the perimeter, making it harder to get open shots, and not succumbing to the press. In the final games of the season, the Lady Raiders were determined to play united against the teams that were on to them. They would drive to the basket and make the extra pass to a crashing big or an open shooter, fight for offensive rebounds, communicate on defense, fight over screens, and much more.
In their final regular season game of the year, it was clear how far the team had come. The Lady Raiders traveled to Woodstock High School with region tournament seeding on the line. The team had lost to Woodstock 73-35 earlier in the season, and just 10 days before, had lost to Cherokee 56-31. With their backs against the walls, the girls fought until the very end, making unselfish plays and setting their own terms. Despite a 55-62 loss, the girls had Woodstock on the ropes the entire game and even led after three quarters of play. Raiders fans could appreciate a season of growth and development.
The Lady Raiders had many individual standouts this season. Team MVP and Davidson Basketball commit Tomisin Adenupe led the team in scoring again and continued to improve in preparation for her senior season. Adenupe expanded her offensive repertoire and became a very consistent three-point shooter down the stretch for the Raiders. She also played the safety role in the press, taking away many passes from the opposition and converting fast break opportunities. Tomisin has improved every year in her career, and this year was not just a scorer, but a do-it-all player. Tomisin also scored her 1,000 point in her career against Roswell High School this year.
One of the faces of the defense was freshman Cici Childers. Cici was the team’s Defensive MVP this season and saw her minutes increase as the season continued. While Cici wasn’t able to make as much of an offensive impact as she did on JV until later in the varsity calender, she was always in the face of the opposition and giving them a hard time. Childers should see an even higher uptick in her minutes next season, as senior Emily Lee will graduate this spring.
Speaking of Lee, the 5’5” point guard had a memorable senior season, orchestrating the Raider offense throughout the entire year. Lee has always been a great outside shooter, but this year she developed her intensity and court vision to lead the offense. In multiple games this season, suffocated the opposing guards and, on the other end of the court, would deliver a pass that others did not even see until it happened.
Neusha Green, the team’s other senior this year, was awarded with Rebounding MVP. Neusha faced an upward battle this season, nursing an injury that ended her junior campaign last year. As the season went on, however, Coach Kelterborn kept calling her number and she kept delivering, creating extra possessions for the offense with offensive rebounds and being a consistent scorer from 12 feet and in.
Thank you to Emily and Neusha for all you have done for the program! With the third season under Coach Kelterborn in the books, the Raiders have much to look forward to next year.