Basketball

George helps new-look DeWitt girls start strong

Grace George,top, of DeWitt knocks down a jump shot over Jalina Crawford ,20, of Everett during their season opening game Tuesday Lansing.

Grace George,top, of DeWitt knocks down a jump shot over Jalina Crawford ,20, of Everett during their season opening game Tuesday Lansing.

LANSING – Grace George wants the DeWitt girls basketball program to maintain its successful ways on the court.

And as one of just three players with varsity experience back for the Panthers, George knows she will have to do her part to make that happen.

“My biggest goal is to help this team to succeed,” George said. “I want to see us do well this season, especially because last season ended with a bitter taste. I just want to make sure that we go this year and we keep pushing and we keep focused.”

The new season got started on a strong note for George and DeWitt on Tuesday night as they rolled to a 60-12 road victory over Everett.

George, who came off the bench last season, led the Panthers with 16 points. She made 5 of 7 shots from the field and was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line while helping DeWitt’s new-look squad turn in a dominating opening performance.

DeWitt coach Bill McCullen said George is someone that will need to play well this winter for a Panther team that has a roster of 10 and one player currently out with an injury.

“I’m hoping she can have a breakout year here as a junior,” McCullen said. “Last year, we were a senior heavy team and with an older sister on the team too, I think Grace played that role for us with coming off the bench (and being a) sixth man and gave us a good spark. I think maybe to a certain degree, she may have kind of stepped back and let those kids kind of play those leadership roles. I think this summer we started to see her come out of that shell a little bit and assert herself offensively. I’m hoping she has a great year. I think this summer, if that was an indicator, I think she will.”

George was one of three players to score in double figures for the Panthers on Tuesday. Sophomore Madison Petersen had 12 points in her varsity debut, while senior Jessah McManus scored 11.

DeWitt scored the first 11 points of the contest and led 24-4 just under five minutes in as it spoiled Nicole Rogers’ coaching debut at Everett.

Rogers, a 2004 Everett graduate that went on to play at Wayne State, took over the head job at her alma mater in the offseason after spending last winter as an assistant. Like DeWitt, the Vikings also have an inexperienced roster after losing their top performers from last season.

And Everett’s inexperience struggled to handle DeWitt’s pressure defense Tuesday and never recovered.

“It was a good start and it kind of built off of our defense,” McCullen said. “We got in the passing lanes pretty well and beat them down the floor and got some easy baskets,  which led to some confidence in our shooting.”

Contact Brian Calloway at bcalloway@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.

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