By Bill Nestor
ast year was a difficult one for the Lincoln girls basketball team. The Cougars have spent more time in Charleston in recent years than most politicians. There is one thing for sure. If you had to vote for a coach to make a return to the state capital, it would be veteran mentor Rob Hawkins. Hawkins has been the driver of the bus for several postseason runs and they are ready to put last season’s 12 and 13 record in the rear view mirror and move forward. A lack of experience and size were just too much to overcome.
The return of four starers (one of which happens to be one of the best players around) and an infusion of talent has Hawkins back in the driver’s seat. “It’s almost a complete turnaround in one year,” explained Hawkins. It is almost a storybook scenario that has taken place in Shinnston that has hoops fans excited.
Senior Ashlyn Riley is back and is one of the most dominating forces in North Central West Virginia. Riley averaged 19.7 points, eight rebounds, three steals, and two blocks a year ago. Senior Brooklyn Davisson returns to run the show from the point guard position. Davisson averaged six points and three assists last year. Senior Aliyah Elder and sophomore Sadie Adams round out the returning starters. Elder, a forward and Adams, a guard, were key contributors and will be counted on heavily this season.
There are several players that are in the mix for the final starting spot and for playing time as well. Junior Riley Pearlman is a Liberty transfer that plays in the post. Senior Alexis Williams returns after missing all of last year due to injury. Williams can play guard or forward. Freshman Aundrea Rockwell provides power in the paint. Junior Hope Blackwell played a ton of minutes last year and will play both small and power forward.
Sophomores Gracey Fortney and Ali Haught, freshman Adriana Elder, and junior Sylvie Salerno (when she returns from injury) will all be in consideration for playing time.
“Early in the season, the biggest thing is to acclimate the new players into the system,” Hawkins stated, adding that “hopefully, by the time 2024 rolls around, we can get everything ironed out and we are comfortable playing together. We want to play our best basketball at the end of the season.”
If Hawkins can achieve that goal, he might have to prepare for yet another road trip down south.