B.E. girls eye third-straight Lower State title
Expectations are sky-high for the two-time defending Lower State champion Bishop England Lady Bishops as they tip off the season Friday in the Military Magnet Thanksgiving Tournament.
Bishop England enters the season ranked No. 2 in the Class 2A S.C. Basketball Coaches Association preseason poll led by two players on the SCBCA top-5 senior list. Mary Harriet Moore and Michele Boykin have helped the Bishops to more than 30 straight wins in Region VI-2A over the past three years and hope to continue those winning ways through their senior season.
“There’s definitely some pressure because now there’s a target on your back,” Boykin said. “But we’re kind of like a family and if we all stay on the same track and play together as a team, we should be able to do well this season.”
“We try to practice hard every day and get in the weight room to make sure we’re the fastest and strongest,” Moore said. “We definitely want to get back to the state championship this season.”
The Bishops are led by head coach Paul Runey who’s approaching 600 wins in his 28th season at the helm. Runey lost seven players to graduation last season, including All-Region VI forward Mia Kiernan, but says the Bishops’ program is designed to alleviate the impact of loss year-to-year with at least 10 players receiving major minutes throughout the season. This year’s squad is 16-deep, with seven upperclassmen — one of the largest Runey has ever had.
“I’ve got a good nucleus to spread things around,” Runey said. “Truly, all of them can help us. We’re not going to drop off too much throughout a game. I think we’ve got a good chance of getting back to the state championships because we have a good group of girls coming back.”
Moore and Boykin should shoulder the scoring load early in games. Both averaged 15 points per game last season playing roughly two quarters per game. Moore is a 6-foot-1 center who can stretch the post with a good 15-foot jumper. She turned in two steals, three blocks and nine rebounds per game. Boykin is an athletic 5-foot-8 versatile guard committed to Hillsdale College (Mich.) who can push the ball in the Bishops’ transition offense. She returns as one of the Bishops’ leaders shooting 65 percent from the field.
Senior forward Camden Taylor will join Moore in the paint as a key rebounder, along with sophomores Anna Marie Penninger and Caroline McQueeny, who will likely share starts this season. Sophomore small forward Erin Rose is also likely to see large minutes this season with her ability to shoot the basketball.
Boykin leads the backcourt along with sharpshooter Eran Artigues. Runey also expects junior Maddie Tucker to make major contributions while he continues to groom his point guard of the future, Jo Jo Tompkins.
The Bishops pride themselves on their defense with a roster full of viable stoppers. Runey says defense is always a priority in the Bishops’ plan to attack by converting turnovers into offense.
“We have a number of kids who are going to contribute because of what we run and what we do,” Runey said. “Everyone can handle the ball when get down the court or we run a five-out (offense) with a lot of motion.
“In our system, where everyone gets to play, we can go 10, 11, 12-deep but they’re all even. There’s not a lot of drop off. And if our second five goes against their second five, we’re going to win that.”
The Lady Bishops tip off the season Friday against Military Magnet. Should they win, they’re likely to advance to face an early test against Stall on Saturday. Runey says the early competition will be good for his team to jump-start their progression through the season and march toward a possible third-straight Lower State championship.
“We feel we’re capable of winning the region, going deep into the playoffs and possibly getting back (to the state championship),” he said. “I feel confident in this team but our goal is to just to get better ourselves and, if we can do that, things will take care of themselves.”