T-D Top 10
1. James River 6-1 1
2. Saint Gertrude 7-2 2
3. Manchester 7-1 3
4. Monacan 4-2 4
5. Cosby 3-3 5
6. Steward 8-1 —
7. Patrick Henry 6-0 7
8. Thomas Dale 4-2 6
9. Highland Springs 6-3 8
10. Glen Allen 6-2 10
Two-time defending VISAA Division II champion Steward lost a historically successful senior class after last season, but coach Kara Bacile’s Spartans have rebuilt behind leading scorer and eighth-grader Sanai Green.
Junior Gates Fox and sophomore Tori West are Bacile’s only players with true varsity experience for an otherwise young and green group.
“Gates Fox has been above and beyond in her leadership and setting the tone from the get-go as far as what it means to be a part of our program,” Bacile said. “Tori’s there too helping with all of that.”
Steward only played six games last season, so although West was a key contributor, she didn’t get much of an opportunity to gain experience, and the rest of the Spartans roster has virtually none at the varsity level.
West had 16 points and five steals in Steward’s 45-35 win over Central Virginia Homeschool Dec. 28. Fox had 8 points and eight rebounds, and Green scored 15 and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Green, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, put up 14 points and 11 rebounds in a 43-40 win over Henrico in the 804 Coaches for Change Community Classic. Bacile called the 5-foot-11 Green “unbelievable,” adding she could have started on the varsity as a seventh-grader.
“In the next few years you’re going to be hearing a lot about Sanai Green,” Bacile said, adding that she’s already picked up a couple Division I offers, including interest from the University of Richmond.
“The best thing about her is the person she is, an incredible teammate, great leader, your hardest worker. Everything you want your star player to be.”
Green’s got standout size and strength for her age, Bacile said, and her body control is “unbelievable.”
“She sees the floor well, handles the ball well, she can shoot the 3, she’s got a great midrange game,” Bacile said. “She’s an all-around player. She understands the game at a high level for her age, really high basketball IQ. She sees things a lot of eighth-graders don’t see. And she’s got the athleticism and has put a lot of work into her game.”
Green has stepped into the shoes of first-team All-Metro honoree Sherese Pittman, formerly the Spartans talisman and now a freshman at James Madison. Bacile said there’s no replacing a player like Pittman, but as far as Green’s on-court profile and work ethic, “She’s picked up where Sherese left off.”
Green practiced with the varsity team last season because Steward didn’t field a middle school team amid the pandemic, gaining experience Bacile said has paid off in her first season playing competitively at the varsity level.
“Her ability, her strength, what she can do on the floor, I knew automatically that she had big shoes to fill but she was ready for it,” Bacile said. “She’s the kind of player that the ball needs to go through her hands at all times. I knew looking ahead to this year she was going to play a major role.”
Fellow eighth-grader Ella Grace Saunders has played a prominent role as well this season, Bacile said, showing poise on the floor beyond her years. Junior forward Meghan Rotter has waited for years playing behind the large Class of 2022, and Bacile said she’s embraced the opportunity to set the program’s cultural tone along with Fox.
Steward suffered its only loss of the season in its second game, a late November 52-51 defeat to St. Catherine’s (4-3). Bacile said that early loss has helped her young group learn how to win.
“With a team that’s as young as we are, learning how to win, come from behind, preserve a lead, not take your foot off the gas, those are things you learn against better teams and good competition,” Bacile said.
“Situationally learning how to execute at a high level, valuing each possession whether that’s on offense or defense, and rebounding, we’ve really put a focus on that. We’ve got to a make a conscious effort to do all those little things. When you don’t, that’s when the losses happen. So we’ve been a little more detail-oriented in trying to execute at a high level.”