Before the 2015-2016 season started, the outlook was looking very bright for Thomas Dale. They returned every main component of their team and were...

Before the 2015-2016 season started, the outlook was looking very bright for Thomas Dale. They returned every main component of their team and were looking to improve on the previous season’s 9-13 record.

Monique Jones was the team’s leading scorer last year, returning for her junior year ready to pick up where she left off. Forward Kylah Webb led the team in rebounds last year as a freshman, and she appeared to come back stronger and more poised than ever. Katiyah Parker, a point guard and team leader was another returning starter, ready for a strong senior season. Elena Flowers, a 6–2 center with collegiate potential came into the Thomas Dale program this year as a senior, ready to help the team out in any way she could.

However, the bright outlook on the season would prove to wear off very fast for the Lady Knights.

Early in the season, Kylah Webb suffered a devastating injury, sidelining her for the entire year. Losing a top rebounder and a great player can really hurt a team’s chances, but the Knights stayed vigilant.

“After Kylah went out, we adjusted well and went on a six game winning streak,” said coach Leon Gholson.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t all that Thomas Dale would have to deal with.

Starting center and guard, Elena Flowers and Destiny Callaham both suffered knee injuries, causing missed time, and starting point guard Katiyah Parker had to miss the rest of the season as well.

Even without four starters, Gholson remains positive.

“We are an even 7-7, and all of the rest of our games are winnable games,” he said. “And if we can stay healthy, we can win out.”

Callaham has been cleared to return to action, and Flowers has the potential to come back before season’s end.

In wake of all of these injuries, many players have to step up, and Coach Gholson has been very impressed with his team.

“Monique Jones has been getting better as a leader, and she has really stepped up her offensive game,” said Gholson. “Keyazia Taylor has been a great defender, we’ve put her on the other team’s best player.”

Jones is a valuable asset as the team’s top scorer and ever-improving leadership skills. As a junior this year, she’s taken hold of the role early. She has also received attention from college scouts, including Averett University and Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The main thing that the Knights will need to improve is their defense. Until all of the injuries happened, Thomas Dale had seen an uptick in their scoring over last year, but now they just aren’t scoring as much.

The defense needs to find their rhythm and force the opposition into turning the ball over.

The team’s roster, now left with only seven players on it, need Flowers back because she is a game changer. Standing at 6’2, she can get up for rebounds, but her smooth post technique also enables her to be a scoring threat down low. Elena has a future in collegiate basketball, already receiving interest from Christopher Newport and Mary Washington. The team is very optimistic, and will not let these injuries define them.

“We are in a good place, second in the conference,” said Gholson. “If we stay healthy, we can make it to regionals.”