But the gap between Reed and the best team in state was clearly evident in the Raiders’ 27-point loss to eventual state champion Centennial in a state tournament semifinal matchup.
That loss has actually led to a couple changes in Reed’s strategies heading into this season.
“Our focus is to start preparing for a team like Centennial now,” Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schopper said. “They’re going to play at that fast pace. We’ve got to get used to pressure, so our practices are a little redesigned from last year. They’re going to be intense and getting after it. Centennial is a good team. Hopefully the teams we play now, will help us beat them.”
The Raiders will also play a tougher non-league schedule. They will compete in the West Coast Jamboree, but will be in a more challenging pool than a year ago.
Schopper also expects the Northern 4A competition to be stronger, a year after no team played Reed closer than 23 points until the regional championship game in which the Blue and Gold took down Galena 45-40. The Raiders also only trailed once at halftime against Northern Nevada competition.
“I think the teams are going to be tough this year. A lot of them have returners. There have been some transfers,” she said. “I think there are going to be some good games this year.”
Reed returners arguably the toughest 1-2 punch in Northern Nevada in sophomore point guard Gabby Williams and senior forward Nyasha LeSure. Both were first team all-league selections and combined for an average of about 36 points a contest.
“I expect a lot out of those two this year, Nyasha in the paint and Gabby at the guard. We should have a pretty good two-man game,” Schopper said. “Nyasha should crash the boards hard. Gabby is going to create shots for people and shots for herself.”
Senior guard Sierra Hooft is also expected to be a key piece this season as teams are expected to focus on shutting down LeSure and Williams by playing different types of zone defenses.
Schopper isn’t sure who the other two starters will be. Sophomore sharpshooter Tyler Sumpter and senior hard-working forward Makaela Moore have the edge right now due to their experience, but Schopper said the newcomers are working hard, so it’s too early to tell what the starting 5 will end up being.
The Raiders likely won’t look much different on the court. They will use their pressure defense to feed their offense like years past. Reed will also try to own the glass and keep its turnovers down.
Reed did lose last year’s High Desert League Player of the Year in Micah Walker, a four-year member of the varsity squad. Her leadership will certainly be missed. However, Walker’s graduation could open the door for Williams to emerge as a stud in just her second varsity campaign. No one could slow down Williams speed and ball-handling skills until the state tourney last year, and she will only get more opportunities to showcase her talent this winter.
“I think Micah did her job and showed Gabby the ranks and how Raider ball is played. I think Gabby is going to step up in those shoes and fill them,” Schopper said.
Reed will open up the league schedule Dec. 6 at Carson.
“I’m excited for this year. We’re a young and an old team,” Schopper said. We have five seniors, four sophomores and a junior. It should be interesting to see how they all come together and play.”