New boys basketball coach Eddie Flinchum faces quite a few challenges as he tries to put together a winning combination for Western Guilford.

He will be without last season's two leading scorers, Eric Levin and Jerry Willis. His tallest player this year is 6-foot-4, ``and that's pushing it,' he said. Add to that the coach's late start and you have the makings of a tough season, especially in the early going.Flinchum takes over the reins from Jack Tesh, who retired early this year after many seasons at the helm. For a variety of reasons, however, Flinchum was unable to assume his coaching responsibilities until late September.

``It's been a difficult handicap,' he said. ``We couldn't hold any summer workouts and only a few kids went to camp. None of them competed in a summer league so we have quite a bit of catching up to do.'

He hopes the Hornets gel in time for the Little Four Christmas tournament. ``We hope to know who we are and what we're capable of by that time,' Flinchum said.

His probable starters include Travis Sides, the top returning scorer and rebounder, and seniors Chris Cook, Zack Stone and Jason Smith. Stone, who is slated to start at center, is not quite 6-4.

``The deficiency in height means that we'll have to run an offense where we don't have to stay in the post too often,' said Flinchum, who is in his 15th year coaching basketball at Western.

The Hornets' strength is their bench. ``The boys we have coming up from jayvee are pushing some of the seniors for starting positions,' he said. ``Our jayvee team went 13-5 last year, so they bring a healthy expectation of winning to this year's varsity squad.'

Also coming off the bench will be 6-4 senior B.J. Whitesell, who played goalie for Western's state semifinal soccer team. ``B.J. should help us out with rebounding and inside scoring.

``To handle the ball and give us an outside threat, we have Smith, Cook and (Sherman) Hughes. They are our top three guards.'

It looks like it will be difficult for the Hornets to improve on last year's 7-16 record. But, Flinchum says, he hopes to surprise some people down the stretch with his squad's quickness, depth, and desire.

The Lady Hornets, Triad 3-A co-champions a year ago, are poised to continue the tremendous success they enjoyed last season. They were 24-7 overall, including a 12-2 mark in the conference, and came up one game short of reaching the state finals.

Western begins the season as the News & Record's No. 4 3-A team in the state. One big reason for the high expectations is 6-1 center Teresa Perkins.

``She really emerged last season,' said coach Ginger Moore, who begins her third year coaching at Western. ``Teresa is a true center, and that's quite a luxury. She has a really soft touch, her 10-foot jumper looks really good, and she runs the court extremely well for someone her size.' Perkins, who was an all-conference and all-regional player as a freshman, is only a sophomore.

However, Moore is prepared for the inevitable attempt by opposing teams to concentrate on her super center.

``Of course we want to go to Teresa a lot, but we'll distribute the ball and try to score in transition as much as we can,' she said. ``We'll utilize our speed to run and play more pressure defense.'

Providing leadership, as well as scoring, will be lone seniors Brandy Palmer and Elizabeth McDuffy.

``Both Palmer (5-9) and McDuffy (5-10) play big,' Moore said. ``Brandy is the heart and soul of our defense. She gives it everything she's got every second of the game and never lets up.'

She says the two seniors are hungry for a chance at reaching the state title game. ``We're counting on them to talk about it (the championship) and engender that desire for the entire team.'

Moore is also looking to sophomore guard Ginny Cheek and freshmen Janiese Ward and Jessica Bailey to give the Hornets a variety of offensive options.

``We're obviously a young team,' Moore said. ``But we can play. We just need some time to get used to each other.'

An early season matchup that should attract some attention is Western's contest against Southern Guilford. The Indians have Angela Donnell, a 6-0 center who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game last year.

``The matchup with Donnell could tell us a lot about how Teresa is developing,' Moore said.

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