The Raiders are coming off back-to-back state tournament trips, but a first-round exit left River View looking for more.
“We’ve been there, but now we want to win one and put on a really good show,” said Justice. “We still think we are the favorites to get there this year, but the regional game will be just as tough both home and away. This region has some of the best talent.”
Over the past two seasons, the Raiders have fought the numbers game. This year, the Justices have 18 players in total who have anchored some veterans.
“Nine freshmen who will only be JV players, but help us improve. Justice said.
Seniors Trista Lester and Hayley Payne are double-digit scorers and are back at the helm for River View this year.
The duo totaled 28 points on the night and grabbed 14 rebounds.
“Hailey was the player who came for us last year. She and Trista hit the ground running really well and played a lot of basketball,” Justice said. “They both can score inside and outside. Other coaches will probably plan to turn them off, but in times of crisis, these are the two girls we’ll turn to.”
The two senior players anchor a team that averaged 40 rebounds per game last year.
“We didn’t have that really tall player, but the kids were always really awful,” Justice said. “Katie (Bailey) averaged 10 rebounds, but we really haven’t had anyone that’s had 14 or 15 rebounds per game. Our team’s rebound has always been good.”
Bailey is the third oldest player on this year’s team and averaged seven rebounds per game last year.
With teams likely to focus on Leicester and Payne, Justice believes this could be a breakout year for youngster Abby Pruitt.
“Abby is 5-foot-10 and has spent the summer and fall in the weight room. She’s one of our strongest players who runs the court really well,” said Justice. Abby gives us a presence after we’ve lost him in the past two years.”
Ally Morgan was a major component of the top missed graduation. The Justice League will turn to freshman Morgan Marek and sophomore Kaylee Blankenship to fill that gap.
“Morgan is a volleyball player and a second baseman in softball, so she’s athletic. She’s a girl who can give us some good minutes. Morgan’s built like an ally,” Justice said. “Kylie has been running the point and playing little wing for us, too. She can go up and down on the ground. I think the combination of those two can give us what he gave us.”
Brooke Fuller is also expected to add some scoring to the Raiders who certainly have the ingredients for a third straight trip to Charleston.
However, the trip back to the state championship is by no means sealed this year.
“(Sectors foe) James Monroe brought all his players back and we had our hands with them last year. The other side (of the region) has Webster County who still have Sidney Bird running back. Greenbrier West has made great improvements last year,” Justice said. The last couple of years, if we win on our team, we feel like we have a good track to the state championship. This year, I don’t think that’s the case.”
River View opens the season on the road at Mount View, November 30.