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Small Team, Big Family

Thin roster matters not to Pinson Valley girls

By Gary Lloyd

PINSON — The members of the Pinson Valley varsity girls basketball team all go out to dinner in one vehicle because they can, because some SUVs and vans seat eight people.

That’s how many girls comprise the team’s roster. There is but one senior, Destini McKinney, three juniors in Maralie McKinney, Alex Lowery and Nahtika Belser, one sophomore in Emmie Waldrop, and three freshmen who come off the bench in Kendall Goldman, Laurel Uhomba and Aaliyah May.

Destini McKinney is the lone senior on the Pinson Valley varsity girls basketball team this season.
file photo by Ron Burkett

The McKinneys are cousins. Belser and Lowery have played with them for years. Lowery and the younger McKinney play on the same AAU team in the summer.

“They are extremely tight-knit,” said first-year head coach Kristan Cromer. “They get along fabulously. It’s amazing to see how my seniors and my juniors accepted these freshmen. It’s like we’re all one big family.”

Cromer admits there are disadvantages on the basketball court to having just eight players. There is no wiggle room for sickness or injuries. Fouls are statistics that are constantly worried about. The three girls who come off the bench are all freshmen, relatively inexperienced varsity players. The small but quick team loves to put hard pressure on offenses and press, but it can’t until late in games, when the possibility of fouling out is in the rearview mirror. There is also the problem of maintaining endurance.

“Having small numbers does affect the way you lay out your game plan,” Cromer said. “The numbers game is definitely an issue in terms of how we play game strategy.”

At practice, two assistant coaches suit up to play so the team can play five-on-five scrimmages. Practices are mostly reserved for in-game scenarios and drills.

Pinson Valley varsity girls basketball coach Kristan Cromer instructs players in a game last month.
file photo by Ron Burkett

Cromer, despite the obvious disadvantages to fielding a thin roster, sees the advantages. Team members have come together and are solid, hardworking, dedicated players, Cromer said.

“We like who we have,” she said.

The numbers issue has been noticeable in recent games, when the Lady Indians (2-7) have been closely trailing opponents or leading them until the last few minutes of the games.

“We’re fatigued (by that time) because we’ve been playing the whole game,” Cromer said.

Cromer said the team has made progress defensively and is getting smarter as a team. When the schedule ramps up after Christmas break, Cromer expects the team to play some of its best basketball.

“We have a ways to go, but we are on the incline, for sure,” she said.

Cromer’s three key points for each game are controlling the boards, limiting fouls and functioning as one unit. She said all she can ask for is effort.

“That’s all I want,” Cromer said. “And these eight have definitely done that.”

The girls travel to Center Point today for a 6 p.m. Class 5A, Area 11 matchup.

Contact Gary Lloyd at and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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