By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
It is Year 2 for the Graham G-Girls in the Mountain Empire District.
They’re thinking big.
“Our goal is to win the district championship,” Graham senior captain Karly Morgan said. “If we get to that point we will see what happens, but we have our sights set on the district championship and working as hard as we can.”
Graham finished 14-11 in its first season at Group A, winning five games in a row before losing to Galax in the MED semifinals and falling to James River in regional play.
Eight players from that team are gone, but Morgan feels like the G-Girls will be more aware of the obstacles in front of them this season.
“I feel like we improved as we went along,” Morgan said. “I feel like the change to the district was good for us. I think it was a new challenge because we didn’t know the players as well, we didn’t know the coaches as well and it was a good challenge for us.
“I think we are a little more used to who we will be playing, I think we have got a better idea of what we are up against.”
Morgan and fellow senior captain Liz Workman started the season on Wednesday with a 53-26 win over Giles.
At least Morgan did. Workman had to have knee surgery for a torn ACL injured during last spring’s run to the state championship game in soccer, and isn’t expected to play until January.
“It is frustrating, but I know I have a great team behind me and they are doing everything they can to be the best that they can be,” Workman said.
Workman has been able to see the game from a different angle while sitting on the sidelines, and that could pay off when she returns.
“I am seeing all the little things that coach points out,” Workman said. “It is like ‘’Yeah, that is what we need to be doing’ so it is changing my mind a little bit.”
Her contributions will be missed.
“It is huge, it hurts, it is early in the season, but right now looking at it I don’t have that go-to person and everybody is kind of standing around looking for that person and Liz was that kind of person,” Graham head coach Tracy Raban said. “To lose her has hurt us tremendously, but hopefully we can have somebody step up and try to fill that role until she can get back.”
That was Emaleigh Gallinger on Wednesday, the sister of former Graham standout Chelsea Gallinger, who led the G-Girls with 13 points. Nine different players got on the board for Graham.
“Very similar, maybe a little bit more aggressive than Chelsea was, a good shooter, hopefully she will be that one,” Raban said. “I think she could step up and be that go-to person and be a threat on the offensive end of the floor for us.”
Morgan, who is an also award-winning equine performer, takes her role as captain seriously on a team that includes three sophomores and two freshman among the 12 players.
“It is an honor and it is a responsibility,” Morgan said. “It is not as much of being a leader on the floor for show, it is behind the scenes, trying to be there for everybody, trying to keep the team together and work as hard as I can.”
While Workman was a key cog in Graham soccer’s run to the state title game last season, and will be much the same again in the spring, her sport is on the court and she is anxious to get back out there.
“Soccer is more of like a relaxing sport for me, while basketball is my sport,” she said. “I am trying to work hard to be better than the opponent.”
In eight seasons under Raban, the G-Girls have become known for aggressive defense and playing to the final minute, but have struggled at times to score the basketball.
The G-Girls have been working to more shots to fall, much like on Wednesday when they scored 22 points in the final period. That was a good sign for Graham, which only eclipsed the 50-point mark once all last season.
“We have been working hard, we have been shooting a lot,” Workman said. “We have been shooting a lot of foul shots realizing that points is what wins you games while defense stops the other people. It goes both ways.”
Graham has enjoyed unprecedented success over the last eight years under Raban, reaching the state tournament in consecutive seasons in 2009-10, and narrowly missing making it three in a row.
The only better run for the G-Girls was winning the state championship way back in 1921.
Workman, who was part of the last Graham to team to reach the state tourney, wants similar success this season, beginning with conquering the MED.
“I think we have the potential to win the district,” Workman said. “We just have to come together and be as good as we possibly can be.”
Morgan is confident the G-Girls can do just that.
“I think our strength is going to come from everybody’s individual talent coming together,” Morgan said. “I think we have a lot of talented girls and I think the key for us is to going to be getting everybody to work as one unit.”
Graham returns to action tonight, playing Wyoming East in the Little General Invitational in Bradshaw. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m.
—Contact Brian Woodson