Lady Pack looks to avoid New Year slump

Published 3:17 pm Friday, December 22, 2017

Washington turned some heads early in its 2016 season. It ran through the majority of its non-conference competition, which included future 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference foes North Lenoir, Greene Central and Ayden-Grifton.

One of the Lady Pack’s rare losses as it built an 11-2 record by the New Year came in its home against Fike. Washington was embarrassed, 48-29, on its own court, but avenged it with a 49-47 victory in Wilson later on in the season.

It certainly looked like Washington was hitting its stride at the right time. It had a good team on paper coming into the season. Making up the loss against Fike — on the road, nonetheless — showed improvement. The Lady Pack also held its own in a two-possession loss to Conley and in a win over South Central.

So why did the season fall apart once the calendar turned to 2018? That’s a question that coach Ralph Biggs still isn’t quite sure how to answer. Washington lost six of its seven conference games in the month of January.

The month’s slate started with a tall task in Southwest Edgecombe, which went on to win 20 games last season. Washington then went on a four-game road swing in which it won a close game at Beddingfield, but dropped decisions to Farmville Central and North Johnston by a combined seven points.

Biggs believes that it boiled down to scarce and relaxed practices during the Christmas break. He’s not going to give the players as much time off this year.

“I’m not going to give them so many days of rest,” he said. “I’m not going to give them so many days off where their mind can get away from basketball,” Biggs said. “We’ve got to get the practice in. We’ve got to get the girls in there earlier and keep them in basketball form. Conference really goes up a notch.”

There’s a balance that Biggs knows he needs to find. Just as conditioning is integral to the upcoming stretch, so too is mental freshness. The Lady Pack seemed to reach a breaking point on Jan. 27 last season when it was blown out, 53-10, by Farmville Central on its own court.

Washington only managed one more win in its final six games.

This winter, the task is to avoid such a slump. The shorthanded Lady Pack is coming off of struggles in South Central’s Christmas Tournament. It sits atop the ECC, but the toughest challenges are yet to come. Two of its three league wins have come against winless teams.

Washington begins 2018 with a trip to South Lenoir on Jan. 2 and will return home to host Kinston on Jan. 5. The Lady Blue Devils have won their last four games. Kinston won seven straight after opening the season with a loss to West Carteret.

That week alone will have a significant bearing on how the top of the ECC standings shake out. Washington won’t have time for even the slightest of stumbles out of the gate this season.