EMORY, Va. --
By now you are probably familiar with the “Big Three” of the Patrick Henry High School girls basketball team – a trio of standouts who have helped the Rebels earn their second straight trip to the state tournament.
Senior Cadence Wilmoth is a scoring machine, the fifth female from far Southwest Virginia to score more than 2,000 career points.
Junior point guard Kasey Uecker brings the energy, relentlessly attacking the defense and dishing out assists.
Junior Jaymee Copenhaver is the 3-point specialist.
But there have been other contributors to Patrick Henry’s success story, players who might not make the headlines, put up gaudy statistics or make a big impact in the nightly box scores.
Patrick Henry has been at its best when the four primary role players – Morgan Yarber, Tyree Wilmoth, Samantha McCauley and Casey Kestner – have produced. They will need to do more of the same on Saturday night as the Rebels play Gate City in the VHSL Group A, Division 2 quarterfinals.
“All year long, they’ve made open shots, they’ve driven to the basket when they should have and they’ve been averaging, between those four, about 12 to 15 points a game,” said Patrick Henry coach Tommy Thomas. “That makes a huge difference.”
Standing at 5-foot-1 Kestner is the shortest player on Patrick Henry’s team, but is long on experience.
One of just two seniors for the Rebels, she is wise beyond her years.
“She’s played for me for four years,” Thomas said. “She’s a great kid.”
A kid that can hit jumpshots when needed. There have been several occasions where Kestner has came off the bench, scored a few points and sparked the Rebels’ offense.
“Casey’s got a good shot,” Thomas said. “When she shoots it, she hits.”
Photo by Earl Neikirk, Bristol Herald Courier
For Kestner, the experience of the last two years has been gratifying. Making it to the state tourney in her final season has made her high school career even more memorable.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Kestner said. “It’s a lot more special being a senior, because it’s a good way to go out.”
What’s it like making the varsity as a freshman and being asked to play a key role?
Yarber and McCauley would know.
“It was really scary at first,” Yarber said. “It helps a lot playing with Cadence, Kasey and Jaymee. They are really helpful. … We all pretty much know what we’re supposed to do and where we’re supposed to go on the court.”
The ninth-grade duo has something else in common.
“I like defense the best,” McCauley said.
Added Yarber, “Defense is my favorite of the game.”
Yarber has started from day one for the Rebels and is among the team leaders in steals and has harassed numerous opponents into committing turnovers.
“When she can play her game, she’s really good,” Thomas said. “She’s been in foul trouble a few times this year because she plays up top and she’s very aggressive.”
McCauley showed her defensive skills in last week’s Region C tournament, her pressure frustrating Glenvar star Kayla DeHart on a couple of occasions.
“Sam came in and in the last half of the season has really picked it up,” Thomas said. “She’s very, very tenacious on defense and doesn’t back down.”
The Little Sister
Being the younger sister of one of Southwest Virginia’s best players could be a burden to some, but Tyree Wilmoth doesn’t mind a bit.
“She really pushes me to my limit in practice,” Tyree Wilmoth said of older sister Cadence. “She’s a great role model and she works really hard and it rubs off on all of us.”
Thomas said there can be a bit of sibling rivalry, however, when the Wilmoth sisters wind up on opposite sides during practice.
“She’s had to play Cadence in practice every day. I guess it’s because they have to go home and eat supper together, they make up every night, but it’s pretty intense in here sometimes,” Thomas said. “I’ve even had players say ‘Don’t put them together, they’re going to fight.’ She pushes Cadence as hard as anybody I’ve seen, especially in practice.”
Along with testing the team’s star player, the sophomore provides rebounding and defensive intensity.
She buys into her role, much like Kestner, McCauley and Yarber, and as a result has Patrick Henry rolling into the state tournament again.