By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
NARROWS, Va. —
Tiffany Perdue and the Narrows girls basketball team experienced life without Savanna Burton for eight games last season.
That will be extended to the entire campaign this year.
Perdue, a 5-foot-7 junior, will be expected to step up her output in the absence of Burton, who is now a freshman volleyball player at Radford.
Of course, so will everyone else.
“It is not going to be just one,” Narrows head coach Wayne Gautier said. “It is not just going to be Tiffany, it is going to take a team effort and that is something we really stress.”
Burton was a force to be dealt with in basketball, volleyball and track, but she has taken her talents to the next level, leaving Narrows to move forward in hopes of improving last season’s 9-13 mark.
“We are going to try our best,” Perdue said. “That is all we can do.”
Even with the return of Burton, the Green Wave missed the Region C tournament for the first time in Gautier’s eight seasons at Narrows.
“She came back the last four or five ball games in the season,” Gautier said. “We were beginning to click, we finally had everybody where we could get in a groove and then we ended up missing the regions by less than a 1/10 of a point.”
Narrows will be looking for more than just percentage points this season. They’ll be seeking points in the basket, something Perdue did last year at a tune of nearly 13 points a game.
“She is the one we are going to key on to be our leader this year,” Gautier said.
Perdue understands she will have to help offset the loss to Burton, but playing without Burton for a few games last season gave the Green Wave a taste of what lies ahead.
“It did help because a lot of the pressure is on our guards and our posts because we aren’t as big as we were last year,” Perdue said.
“We got used to it, the other kids realized they had to step up,” added Gautier. “I think they realize that this year that — don’t get me wrong — but it is more of a team game.
“We are having to rely on everybody and that is what the girls realize.”
Last season was difficult, not just with the loss of Burton, but the Green Wave had so few healthy players at times that former members of the team had to be called in for help.
“We had to get the alumni in here to practice with us,” Perdue said.
Narrows (0-3), which lost its first two games to Rural Retreat (49-26) on Monday and to Eastern Montgomery (43-39) the following night, does have more reinforcements this season.
“We have 10 girls and that is just good to have, we had depth at every position,” Gautier said. “I feel comfortable with substitutions so practices have been a lot better, we have been able to scrimmage and practice against each other so that has been a plus.
“Last year we had to call all the alumni back in to practice with, but I am very pleased so far. We have got to find a couple of scorers to go with Tiffany.”
Perdue can score the ball. The soft-spoken junior averaged nearly 13 points last season, but had a high of 27 against both Giles and Montcalm.
“Driving more to the basket and getting underneath and getting to the line,” said Perdue, when asked how she can improve on those numbers.
She scored 16 points in the loss to Rural Retreat and 10 more against Eastern Montgomery, but will strive for even more whenever possible. Perdue also scored 21 in Narrows’ 43-37 loss to Giles on Thursday.
Perdue also wants to be there to help the rest of the Wave.
“I am excited to know my team better,” said Perdue, of her role as a leader for the Green Wave. “I will try my best. Our strengths are teamwork and communication and getting along. We get along really, really well.”
Perdue, whose cousin, Rodney Perdue, is a point guard for the Narrows boys team and quarterback on the football team, has played basketball for much of her life.
“I have been playing since third grade so it is kind of in the blood,” said Perdue, who came off the bench as a freshman and started last year for the Green Wave.
Narrows is part of a competitive Mountain Empire District that has long been strong in girls basketball, sending two teams — the Green Wave and Bland County — to the Division 1 state tournament a few years ago.
That was memorable in that those are two of the smaller schools in Virginia.
“It is nice, and it would be nice to get back to state,” Perdue said. “We will see, especially with how kind of small we are.”
Perdue is hoping the Green Wave can challenge in the MED, get back to the regionals and do damage, much like Narrows has done on the hardcourt in the past.
“I don’t really know, we will see the outcome,” said Perdue, on where the Green Wave could land in the MED.
Narrows has a long tradition for girls basketball, and Gautier expects this team to continue those expectations.
“This is my eighth year and we have been pretty successful,” Gautier said. “We were successful before that. Girls basketball has always been strong here and we want to continue that.
“We have got a good younger program coming, but we want to play for now and we still feel like we have enough to compete every night.”
Perdue agrees. Basketball season has arrived, and he’s one happy girl.
“I am really excited,” she said. “I think the whole team is excited.”
—Contact Brian Woodson