The James River girls will be looking for continued improvement when the 2023-24 basketball season opens this week. The Knights were scheduled to open at home against Christiansburg on Tuesday with the home opener on Thursday against Bassett.
Two years ago coach Ryan Firebaugh took over a team that was winless the year prior. River won seven games in Firebaugh’s inaugural season and last year they improved to 11-13. This year, anything but a winning season would be disappointing.
“We hope to have an improvement from last season when we were a game away from playing in the semifinals for the regional tournament,” said Firebaugh. “With only losing two seniors off of last year’s squad that is a reachable goal for us.”
Among the returnees is junior forward Caitlin Canada, a first team all-region selection from a year ago.
“Caitlin has improved her game tremendously,” said Firebaugh. “She’s going to be a leader on this team. With her ability to play inside and out she is going to take advantage of a lot of mismatches.”
This is still a young team, as Honesty Liming is the only senior on the team.
“Honesty will play in the post and has a really good post game,” said Firebaugh. “Her strengths are rebounding and being able to take advantage of the one-on-one match-ups inside.”
A strong sophomore class of returning varsity players includes forward Jalen Thompson, swing player Audrey Benson and guards Kiera Crawford, Siera Davis and Kelsi Maydian. Sophomores Jenna Lynch and Ella Moran come up from the jayvee team.
“This group of sophomores got a lot of experiences as freshmen last year,” said Firebaugh. “They’re a year older with one year under their belt. Each and every one of them has improved their game from day one.
“We want to be competitive game in and game out this year. The girls and I are very excited for the upcoming season. They’re ready to make some noise.”