Lely girls uncork basketball season tonight

Preseason action begins for four girls basketball teams when Lely High hosts its annual Tip-Off Classic tonight.

Naples opens with Cypress Lake at 5, followed by Lely against Charlotte at 6:45.

The classic concludes on Thursday with Naples playing Charlotte at 5 and Lely playing Cypress Lake at 6:45.

The Trojans, after losing all their games the year before, improved to 10-12 last season and made it to the Class 4A, Region 3 quarterfinal, losing to Cypress Lake, 49-43.

Lely head coach Nick Young is optimistic about his team's chances for a winning season — and maybe more.

A year ago, he had two seniors, but neither saw much action. This year, he just has one senior in captain Christina Octavien, an all-sport athlete who should use her size to help Lely in rebounding.

Nine of the 12 players on the roster have played for Young, with five freshmen making up the starting lineup a year ago.

Now sophomores, Jackie Licout, Chelsie Dangler, Heather Chairez, Stephanie Neill and Victoria Howard all return.

Returning jurniors are Manolitha Joseph, Joanne Pettihomme and Veronica Perry, while new to the team are juniors Beatrice Pierre, Shauna Campbell and Taylor Crawford.

Naples High’s Ashley Delk, right, struggles to keep the ball from Lely’s Stephanie Neill during a game last season. Both teams are in the Lely Tip-Off Classic that begins tonight.

Photo by LEXEY SWALL, Daily News

Naples High’s Ashley Delk, right, struggles to keep the ball from Lely’s Stephanie Neill during a game last season. Both teams are in the Lely Tip-Off Classic that begins tonight.

Howard, Licout and Octavien were leapers for the volleyball team, all skilled in shot blocking. Chairez is a cross country standout, running for the Lely cross country team in the Class 3A state championship on Saturday.

"Manolitha is probably the fastest girl in Southwest Florida," Young says of Joseph.

While still young, the team continues to improve as the girls learn more about how to play basketball, Young says.

"As we go through the season, statistics will speak for themselves on how well they play and we will do." Young says.

"Right now we have no key players, they all deserve equal billing. I will say that the girls aren't freshmen anymore, and freshman mistakes will not be acceptable this year."

Young expects a productive season.

"I think 15 wins is a legitimate goal," Young says. "Our goal is to win our district that includes Palmetto Ridge, Golden Gate, Immokalee and Naples."

Naples was 25-4 last season, losing in the Class 4A state championship semifinals. However, the Golden Eagles lost senior standouts Jessica Gary and Marlena Elbert.

"They will have an outstanding guard in Janay Jennings," Young says. "I had her as a freshman, then her family moved out of the Lely district."

Cypress Lake was ranked as high as No. 7 in Class 4A last season, yet Lely split with them.

"We play them on Thursday and that should be a good game," Young says. "None of the games count on the season record, but they will be a good test to see how we are developing early in the season."

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