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PRC basketball hit with injury bug

The Lady Blue Devils basketball team is off to a hot start including a four game winning streak to open the season.

However, things are going to get tougher for the squad as it deals with injuries to several key players.

Starting point guard Eden Henley is out along with Breyanna Bernard, who has been a rebounding machine for PRC so far this season.

In total five of the team’s top eight players are out injured, including three starters.

Head Coach Tony Labella said that as a result of the missing players, other athletes will be on the court for more minutes and have to work as a group in order to maintain the same level of play the team has had this season.

“When you lose somebody like Breyanna you can’t do the whole next person up thing. You can’t just plug in 15 rebounds a game, so we’re just doing it by committee more,” Labella said.

Due to the depleted roster, senior Payton Lee has stepped up and become the team’s focal point offensively.

Lee was one of two players who had to play all 32 minutes of the team’s game against Pine Dec. 2 because of the injuries.

Labella credited the conditioning work done by his assistant coach Kelsey Carroll as the main reason the athletes were able to play the entirety of the game.

PRC won 32-31 against Pine and Labella said the young players stepped up for the injured starters.

“We did a really good job with the younger ones who were starting and hadn’t had a lot of games. We didn’t play great, but I was pleased with the effort considering a lot of people were missing,” Labella said. The wins have helped build the players’ confidence and having momentum heading into the district portion of the season will be a benefit.

District play will be when the team truly tests its mettle.

“We don’t want to start 0-1 and we’ll try to get better in the meantime with the people who are out there,” Labella said.

Using each day to improve has been the constant message from Labella to his players as the team prepares to play an unknown number of games without integral players.

Athletes who may have only gotten a couple minutes each game previously will now have expanded roles, which is why having productive practices has become exceedingly important.

“We just have to get better and keep working. It’s the coach’s job to make sure we don’t take a day off. We have to get better quicker now because we’ll be playing without these people,” Labella said.

Another curveball for the Blue Devils is the team’s next three games will be on the road.

PRC will travel to Greene County Dec. 9, West Harrison Dec. 13 and Long Beach on Dec. 16.

Greene County will provide a tough test for PRC, so Labella is hoping some of his injured players are back and ready for the big game against the Wildcats.

“Greene County is loaded and we’ll be playing on the road that Thursday. We’ll maybe make some adjustments to the offense, but we can’t begin to feel sorry for ourselves,” Labella said.  A bright spot for the team in spite of the injuries has been how some players have handled their expanded roles.

Elana Hawthorne is one of those players, which is why her continued development will be a benefit for the team. “Elana Hawthorne played a really good game the other day and had eight points, but more importantly she’s done a great job defensively,” Labella said.