O’Neal leads more experienced Southside girls

Published 4:16 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

Ka’Nayah O’Neal is closing in on several individual milestones as she starts her senior year at Southside and her teammates might be experienced enough to make it a memorable one for the team as well.

O’Neal, a 5’9 guard, has been asked to do almost everything on the floor during her time as a Seahawk and has delivered in spectacular fashion.

Last year, she averaged 32 points, 13 rebounds and five steals a game as Southside went 13-8 with a loss to Woods Charter in the first round of the 1A playoffs.

If she stays healthy, O’Neal is on pace to score more than 2,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds and swipe 300 steals for her career.

The team made it to the second round of the state tournament her freshman year, the third round as a sophomore and the second round last year. All five starters return, so she will have more experienced teammates for the first time.

“We look pretty good on paper, but we still have to go out and deliver,” coach Milton Ruffin said. “We should be in the conversation for the conference championship, but our sophomores have to continue the improvement they showed toward the end of last year.”

Ruffin is counting on sophomores I’kiriyah Minor, Kiliah Moore, Tamya Smith and junior De’Najah Warren to take some of the load off O’Neal.

“We’ve asked her to do a lot of everything her first three years and she can’t beat the opponent all by herself,” Ruffin said. “She’s been a great leader for us and she sets a high bar in practice, so the others improve while trying to keep up with her. Ka’Nayah really wants to win and does whatever is needed to help us do that.”

Senior Reece Cutler, junior Ryleigh Hombirg and sophomore Lily Mclean will come off the bench to give the Seahawks more experienced depth.

“The younger players are taking better shots and making better decisions in practice,” Ruffin said. “Ka’Nayah’s basketball IQ is excellent, she sees the floor very well and she knows where everyone is supposed to be. We plan on being fun to watch this year.”

Southside opens Wednesday at Mattamuskeet