Mooring, Slade provide strong rotation for Northside

Published 3:06 pm Monday, January 15, 2018

PINETOWN — Northside coach Michelle Leathers has confidence in senior guard Abby Mooring — perhaps more confidence than she has in herself, Leathers said. That’s why Mooring was tabbed to move from her natural shooting guard spot over to the point when Slade was shelved due to a shoulder injury.

Mooring rose to the occasion. She was more than familiar with the offense, thanks to her years with the varsity squad.

“It was a little more pressure, but we’ve done good,” Mooring said. “I think we learned how to handle the ball better without (Gabby Slade). Now we’ve got her back.”

Leathers added: “I’m very comfortable. I think I have more confidence in her than she has in herself. She’s happy to step up and play point. I don’t think it matters where she plays.”

It falls in line with Mooring’s quiet leadership of the Lady Panthers. One of four seniors on the team, she has shown growth as a player and a locker room presence each year.

“It says a lot about her leadership. A lot of people think you have to be vocal,” Leathers said. “She’s one of our silent leaders. She works hard and does what I ask her to do. That part, I truly respect.”

Now Northside has Slade back in the lineup. This past week was about the Lady Panthers working their way back into a rhythm after the weather kept them off the hardwood for nine days.

No player needed that more than Slade. She donned a shoulder brace earlier in the season, but said she was operating at about 40 percent.

“It was tough. Forty percent, I think it was probably less,” Leathers said. “For her, that was a lot of toughness. You’ve got to know the player and know how she is.”

Gabby Slade holds the ball at the point in last week’s game against Columbia.

Now Slade says she’s back to 100 percent, but the challenge is getting back into the swing of things. Wednesday’s Columbia game was the perfect opportunity. She and the Lady Panthers were happy to have a non-conference tune up for their return from the wintery break.

“It feels good. I’m trying to get myself back into the flow of the game,” Slade said after the 60-29 win over the Lady Wildcats. “(The injury) was tough, but I didn’t want to give up on my team. I feel like we’re all together as one.”

Leathers has rotation options moving forward. Slade and Mooring were apart more than not in the game against Columbia. The plan is to have a No. 1 point guard on the court at all times.

“My favorite team is the (San Antonio) Spurs. I’m learning a lot from them in the NBA,” Leathers explained. “I’m trying to get (Slade) at the point so Abby can have some rest. As time goes on, you’ll see them out there together.”

Getting both on the court provides more firepower and playmaking potential. The Lady Panthers can roll out whichever lineup best matches the opponent, so having what Leathers believes is two starters at the role is a good problem to have.

Northside is set to travel to Plymouth on Tuesday. It will return home Friday for a rematch with a Riverside team that clubbed it, 67-25, in Williamston on Dec. 8.