LUDOWICI -- The Long County Lady Blue Tide basketball team has not had a ton of success on the court over the last few years, but the team is looking to turn their recent luck around for the 2021-22 season and second-year head coach Dwayne Reviere looks at this season as being all about staying focused.
Last season, the Lady Tide finished the year 5-15, winning a few region games along the way before falling in the first round of the region tournament and missing the state playoffs for the third year in a row.
Reviere talked about wanting the team coming back “more committed to improving on what we did last year.” He said that they know the team has a chance to make noise in the area.
“I think that they realize that we can be a good team,” Reviere said. “It’s just going to take a lot of hard work. In order to get to a higher echelon, it’s going to call for kind of refining what we built on last year: trying to reduce turnovers and play better defense.”
Due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Lady Tide saw their numbers decrease, leaving them with only nine players on varsity, six of which graduated, and six on JV. This would lead many to believe that the team might struggle due to the youth lack of experience on the team.
Two players that should make an impact for the Tide this year are four-year starting guard Makayla Raimer and three-starting forward Jada Young. Reviere also mentioned rising junior Adryanna Harley as a potential impact player after playing “a great deal last year as a sophomore."
“We’re also looking for some good things from those kids that played JV last year,” Reviere said. “The thing we are looking for now is leadership and that sense of commitment to getting better. Our seniors did a good job in working through the shortened season last year and trying to stay focused, but this year we want to start out the year focused and continue to keep that throughout the season.”
The Lady Tide have not made the state playoffs since the 2017-18 season. They have bookmarked that as one of their main goals for the 2021-2022 season, but Reviere also knows that the way to achieve that goal is play better defense and commit less turnovers.
“We want to focus and not commit early turnovers and play better defense,” he said. “I think this year we have more quickness, so we will try to play a little less zone defense, which I believe hurt us some throughout last season.”
For the boys, the 2021-22 season went much differently with the team finishing 11-8 with a runner-up spot in the region trophy and falling to Johnson in the Sweet Sixteen, a rematch of the previous year’s Elite Eight matchup.
The Tide graduated just two seniors, leaving the team with a crowd of experienced players and six seniors, including all-region combo guard Cameryn Johnson who finished second in the 2021 GHSA Slam Dunk competition.
Fifth-year head coach Reggie Wilkes knows that this much experience will only benefit the team as they look for their second region title in three years.
“We have high expectations for this group. A lot returning from last year,” he said. “...We got a great senior group and juniors that we feel are ready to go. We look for them to continue the success that we’ve had.”
Wilkes talked about his senior group, which also includes Prence Doomes who will likely take over the starting point guard role in place of the graduating Tostadas Pouncey, and Dwayne Rowe who is an electric athlete and really came on strong near the end of last season.
He said that he put the task in front of them to take control of the team and try to take them to the next level of winning another title and making a deep run in the state playoffs again.
“Since this summer, we have been challenging them to take the next step,” he said. “They’ve gotta take over. It’s their turn and they gotta be the leaders.”
Something else that should help the Tide in a big way is the addition of alumnus Brendon Scott as an assistant coach. Scott played for the Tide during the 2015-16 season when they won a region title in AA and played for Wilkes in eighth grade and won a championship then as well.
“We hope he brings a lot of energy and experience. He was a part of a lot of good teams here...It’s great to have him back at Long County to continue on some of the success that he built,” Wilkes said.
The overall goal for the Tide this year is to compete for a region title, but it won’t be an easy task.
Tattnall County lost only one player to graduation and returns a lot of their experience as well as Brantley County being a very young team. Appling County is the defending region champions and return Darris Smith, the 2020-21 Region 1-AAA Player of the Year and a 6’7” University of Georgia football commit. Pierce County will likely be tough as usual and a different kind of challenge as they welcome in a new head coach.
The Blue Tide played their annual Blue and White scrimmage game on Friday, Oct. 29 and hosted Bryan County on Wednesday, Nov. 10 for their scrimmage.
Their first official game will be on Thursday, Nov. 18 when they host Claxton.