Iron Horses' basketball teams show progress despite setbacks

The Philip Simmons High School girls’ and boys’ basketball teams have suffered through some growing pains this season. The most noticeable example is a 101-26 setback the boys’ team absorbed against North Charleston in its first game in the history of the new school.

With teams that include rosters of middle-schoolers, freshmen and sophomores, experience matters, and the two teams will certainly have better days ahead. But even in the early part of the season, the Iron Horses have managed some success. While the boys were winless at 0-5 heading into this week’s schedule, the girls have had reason to celebrate.

After opening the season with three losses, the team picked up its historic first victory with a 37-23 victory over Whale Branch on Dec. 5. Three days later, the Iron Horses topped Whale Branch again, this time by a 45-23 decision.

“I put the ownership of the team on the girls,” Philip Simmons girls’ coach Dustin Williams said. “I told them Whale Branch was a team we could beat. They won two straight. Hopefully, they can take those positives and build on it. I was thrilled to see the looks on their faces and to see that hard work pay off.”

The team is young, so Williams says don’t use the win-loss record as a measuring stick.

“Give us two years before you judge us,” Williams said. “This offseason will be critical to our future. We have to work hard on the court and off to get stronger and better.”

The team leader is 5-7 sophomore Ashlen Richardson, who plays the wing and forward. She transferred from Hanahan and her future appears to be bright.

Three other players with important roles on the team are only in the seventh grade. They include Kennedy Rivers, Kylee Kellerman and Zharie Mack.

The boys’ team, meanwhile, opened its season with five consecutive losses. The Iron Horses averaged 34.6 points per game, while allowing 77.8.

Coach Garrett Campbell said his team has shown improvement despite not breaking into the win column.

“We’re better than we were when the season began,” he said. “But, still, it’s tough. The kids know what will happen. But you try to stay positive.”

The Iron Horse boys’ team has 14 players on the roster including six sophomores. The majority of the players are freshmen. Campbell plans to add a junior varsity team next season, but there will be times this year that the Iron Horses will play games – and tournaments – against other junior varsity programs.

Campbell said the toughest item on the Iron Horses’ agenda is competing with 14- and 15-year-old players who go up against teams with players who are 17 and 18.

“The body of high school kids can change so much,” he said. “It’s really difficult to go up against a player who is three or four years older than you.”

Campbell said the team should be more physical – and competitive in time for the 2018-19 season.

“Next year, the majority of the team will be juniors with a year’s experience under their belts,” Campbell said.

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