Bartlett Yancey's boy's basketball coach Mark Hughes wasn't sure how a year without basketball because of Covid would affect the youthful team he'd been molding during the off season.

Last week's season opener at River Mill erased some of that uncertainty. His Bucs lost 70-66, but Hughes saw a lot he liked.

“I was impressed with how poised they were and under control,” he said of his players, none with varsity experience. Only three even had played JV.

The Bucs controlled the first half, cruising to a 35-18 halftime lead. River Hill (2-4) dominated the second half, though, winning in overtime.

“We have to learn to win ball games down the stretch,” Hughes said. “It's a new team, but expectations are the same – compete and win.”

He figures practice and game experience will get his team where it needs to be. His players are “humble” and “very coachable.” he said. “After watching them (against River Mill), we're going to be fine.”

He fielded a 10-player team against River Mill. All saw action. Two were junior varsity, though, so he'll be working with eight for the season. That's down from his normal 11 players and not enough for full scrimmages. So he has enlisted team managers and assistant coaches to come up with enough players for five-on-five practices. 

“It's perfect,” he said of the arrangement.

His team has only one senior – Brendan Nunnally – and his tallest player is Jordan Johnson, a junior at 6-foot-3-inches. Jordan was one of three players Hughes singled out for praise after the River Mill game. The other two were both sophomores: Matthew Sidney and Nathan Cumpton.

“They are going to be fun to watch,” Hughes said of the trio. 

Next up for the Bucs: at Northeast Guilford on Dec. 3. BY's first home game is scheduled for 7:30 pm Dec. 6 against Morehead. 

BY's girls, coached by Marvin Wimbush, open their season at home 6 pm Dec. 1 against Eastern Alamance.