Goochland’s junior-and-senior-heavy varsity girls’ basketball team is heading into the new season with height on its side, and it’s also bringing back players who were key to last year’s successes.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 2018-19 campaign in which they went 17-10, reached the Region 2A semifinals and featured senior leadership from Lanaysia Gonzalez, Justice Tibbs, Blake Thomas and Anjelyn Carter. Following those players’ graduation this June, Goochland coach James Harris said the Bulldogs lost a little bit of rebounding, points production and one-on-one lockdown defending, but he sees this year’s team defense being a little bit stronger. He also anticipates more ball movement and passing among his players to set up the best shots. This year’s seniors include Carleigh Gilstrap, Victoria Lopez, Kenley Warren, Jalyn Burns and Lilly Yutzey. Multisport junior standout Gabby Ragone is back, and she’s expected to lead the way and control the tempo once again as the starting point guard after her strong performance as a sophomore.
Goochland is bringing back a force in Burns at the center position, and junior Ahmani Quarles and sophomore Emmy Paulin, who both got pulled up from JV last year, are returning as well. Juniors Megan Bowers, Taylor Whitfield and Shaylah Duff are among this year’s newcomers.
Seven of Goochland’s 12 players are listed as 5-8 or taller. Lopez is listed at 6-1; junior Danae Baugh is listed at 5-10.
“Our bigs are a little bit bigger this year,” Harris said. “That’s going to help protect the rim, even if they’re not blocking shots, but just…height-wise, just being there and [deflecting] or having those other girls changing up their shots.”
This year’s team is still working a little bit on its chemistry, but Harris said it’s getting there. He’s also looking for his players to be a little more vocal on defense.
Additional defensive goals for the Bulldogs include getting ball deflections, limiting the opposing team to one shot, closing out the possession and being disciplined, which includes not bailing out teams with fouls.
This year’s postseason will have a new look for the most part with Goochland getting bumped up from VHSL’s Class 2 state classification to Class 3. The Bulldogs’ James River District-heavy regular season schedule remains consistent with last year, but they’ll face two opponents in Class 3 or higher to start off.
They’re currently slated to open the regular stretch at Patrick Henry in Ashland on Tuesday, Dec. 3 (7 p.m.), then play at Fluvanna on Thursday, Dec. 5 (7 p.m.). Their home opener versus JRD opponent Cumberland is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 6 (7 p.m.). They’ll also face Class 4 team Powhatan twice this year, once on the road (Monday, Dec. 16, 7:15 p.m.) and once at home on Goochland’s Senior Night (Wednesday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.).
The ultimate focus for the team is to win the state championship. But for Harris, if his team comes together, works hard, does the little things and leaves everything on the court, that would also help make this season a successful one.