St. Thomas More girls on 6-game winning streak

MAGNOLIA — On paper, this looks like St. Thomas More simply picked up where it left off.

A year after reaching the DIAA state quarterfinals for the first time, the Ravens’ girls’ basketball team is 7-1.

But try looking at this from coach Crystal Gordon’s point of view.

She lost seven players from last season’s 17-3 squad. And this year’s nine-player roster includes five freshmen and three sophomores.

“I was extremely concerned,” said Gordon. “I’ve been here four years and I’ve had four different teams — completely. It’s like starting from scratch every year.”

If this is a rebuilding year for St. Thomas More, though, it’s been a pretty good one.

The Ravens’ only loss has come against Hodgson in the second game of the season. They take a six-game winning streak into today’s 4:45 p.m. home game against Christiana.

Junior guard DahNaija Barnes said the players don’t even really talk about last season. So many of them weren’t part of it.

“Last year was last year, this year is this year,” she said. “We leave the past in the past. Now it’s just what this year is going to be.”

Barnes, the starting point guard, said she was never overly concerned about this squad — young or not.

“I had confidence in my team,” said the 5-footer. “It’s not really a big deal because they came in strong, ready to play. We’re all getting on the same page now as the season has gone along. We’ll be better as time goes on.”

Gordon said, in retrospect, losing to Hodgson early in the season wasn’t such a bad thing.

St. Thomas More fell to the Silver Eagles, 45-36, on Dec. 9 in a game that was close throughout. Gordon said it was a humbling experience.

“I feel like they approach everything with humility now,” she said. “Before that, they were on top of the world. Some of them didn’t know what to expect.

“But that (loss) put it in perspective for us. Once we went though that, we’ve kind of been steady.”

“As a team we knew we should have never lost,” said 5-foot-10 freshman Kaylah Barnes. “That just made us come back hungrier to get more wins. It’s always going to be in the back of our minds.”

The Ravens’ top scorer is sophomore Aniah Patterson, who’s averaging 17.1 points per game. She’s finished in double figures in seven of eight contests, netting a season-high 30 points in a win over Seaford.

DahNaija Barnes (no relation to Kayla) adds 10.5 points a game while also running the offense. Sophomore Jessica Simmons (9.4 points), Kayla Barnes (7.1) and freshman Nicole Rainford (6.9) have all reached double figures in games this season.

Spreading the offense around this season has helped the Ravens.

“We just all bonded,” said Kayla Barnes. “One of us can be down and we all just bring each other together.”

Gordon admits that St. Thomas More has endured its share of growing pains this season.

But what the Ravens lack in experience, they make up for with their energy, she said.

“They work very hard,” said Gordon. “And they really want to play basketball and get better. I love that about them.

“They’re driven. They push themselves and they allow me to push them, as well.”

St. Thomas More has a big game against Concord (6-1) on Monday at 2 p.m. The Raiders were the team that eliminated the Ravens, 60-47, in last year’s state quarterfinals at the Carpenter Center.

Monday’s rematch will be played at Howard in Wilmington as part of the Lady Wildcats MLK Showcase.

On the other hand, there’s only a handful of players left who played in last year’s meeting.

“We try to leave it where it was at and just build on the foundation we laid,” Gordon said about last year’s success. “They were able to bridge the gap between the new girls and the ones who returned.

“I kind of let it go and started fresh this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I kind of just really had to build — again.”

“Of course we want to do better (than last year),” said Kayla Barnes. “But we just take it game by game and see what the future has for us.”

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