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Parker, Bishop look to continue season's turnaround at home against Salem

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Friday, January 19, 2018

Should the N.C. Wesleyan women’s basketball team continue its upward trending play of late and make noise when it matters most, they might reflect on a two-game stretch in mid-December.

Starting on Dec. 13, they beat Shenandoah University by two points, then closed out the 2017 schedule three days later with a win over Virginia Wesleyan, 75-65. Those two victories brought a sinking record from 2-6 up to 4-6 entering the winter break, a 16-day hiatus between games that coach Artina Trader said came with great timing.

“We were becoming machines, now we’re playing basketball -- we were playing in our own heads,” she said. “Those games right before Christmas, to win those and then get a very long break -- when we came back, everyone was really focused. We came back on Jan. 1 and had some good practices going into the rest of the schedule.”

Those two wins to close out 2017 included, the Bishops (7-8, 4-3 USA South) have now won five of seven contests -- three in conference -- to perhaps salvage their season. They’ll look to carry that momentum into this weekend, when they host Salem College today at 2 p.m. and Greensboro College on Sunday, also at 2 p.m.

After this weekend, eight more USA South games complete NCWC’s schedule.

“I expect us to get better by the end of the season,” senior KeChae Parker said. “I don’t plan on taking anymore losses. That’s the plan at least, the goal is to win out.”

Parker, who maintains her attitude as strictly team-first, still leads the Bishops in several different categories: points per game (14.9), rebounds per game (8.4), minutes (26.3) and free-throws attempted (5.5).

She’s also the team’s lone senior, a fact that she was iffy about earlier in the season; certainly, there was some nervousness to the uniquity of the situation, but as she’s grown into her role, both her and Trader agreed, the team has improved.

“She’s gotten better with it, obviously she wasn’t a very vocal player going into the season,” Trader said. “It’s a little different to change your role after three years. We’ve had other people be vocal.

“It’s different when you’re the one who has to push players. It’s been a lot better lately.”

Though the numbers for Parker this season are similar to those last year, the role was obviously much different. At the beginning of the year, when the Bishops were off to a 2-6 start, everything was moving too quickly, Parker said, but things have slowed down in recent weeks, both on the court and in terms of her leadership role. The offense, the chemistry and the in-game execution in general has been less rehearsed.

“The plays work, but as a team we create and play basketball well when we’re all on the same page,” Parker said. “It started off a little rocky. It’s calmed down, it’s been more slow-paced. I’m looking forward to being with my team, teaching them new things. For the most part, I had to realize I wasn't playing for just for me, I’m playing for them -- it’s helped me get out of my shell.”

Behind Parker’s 14.9 points per game, freshmen Kayla Johnson and Javana Jones are adding 8.8 and 8.3 points a game, respectively.

Overall, the Bishops are averaging just over 75 points a game in their last seven games, compared to just over 59 points a game in their first eight.

It’s no secret, said Trader, why the record over those two stretches has been so different.

“The offense has started to click. We’re putting some points on the board,” said the coach. “We still definitely have some work to do on both ends, but the offense has started to come together.”

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