Patriot High School Caitlin Blackman and Elena Bertrand

Patriot High School girls' basketball players Caitlin Blackman, No. 5, left, and Elena Bertrand, No. 4, right, and have fueled Patriot’s rise to the top of the Cedar Run District. The Pioneers are 6-0 with two district games left Wednesday at Osbourn Park and Friday vs. Battlefield.

For her full-time job, Antoinette Wadsworth is a licensed professional counselor who supports children, adolescents and families with behavioral and mental health needs. 

In her sixth year as Patriot girls basketball coach, Wadsworth brings an upbeat temperament to all her duties, and she’s smiling a lot this year. That’s because the Pioneers have opened 8-0 in the Cedar Run District and are closing in on the district title.

“I’m very proud of how they’ve shown themselves to be flexible and adaptable in the middle of a pandemic. They’re focused first on safety for themselves and the unit,” said Wadsworth.

The Pioneers (8-2 overall) are led by the dynamic guard tandem of senior Caitlin Blackman and junior Elena Bertrand. The two rotate between point guard and shooting guard. 

Blackman, who will play at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, averages 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals. She’s a four-year starter and the heart-and-soul of the Pioneers. “She’s a great teammate and always locked in. Her heart beats basketball,” said Wadsworth, who calls Blackman a great competitor. “You can’t miss her on the floor.”

Another vital cog is Bertrand, who averages 16 points and four assists. “Elena really matured this past summer. She’s more confident in her role and has gotten more verbal as a leader. She wants to play at the next level and is hungry this year,” Wadsworth said.

Blackman and Bertrand are the only returning starters, with Blackman and starting guard Kiley Smith the only seniors -- joined by three juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen. Patriot has just 10 varsity players, as some returnees opted out due to the pandemic.

Freshman Ella Negron is the tallest starter at 5’9” and ranks third on the team in scoring at nine points a game and leads the Pioneers with eight rebounds per contest. Sophomore Addisyn Banks also starts. “She has really committed to get better every practice and every game,” the coach said.

Patriot typically employs man-to-man defense and runs a motion offense. 

Patriot made the state tournament in 2016-17 under Wadsworth, eliminating Landstown (Virginia Beach) in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Colonial Forge.

The Pioneers (8-2) have reeled off eight straight wins after a season-opening loss to Cardinal District juggernaut Colgan, followed by a double overtime defeat to Forest Park.

With two district games left it appears the Pioneers need to hold off Osbourn Park to claim their first Cedar Run regular season title in school history. They edged OP 44-36 on Jan. 13. 

“Our best game was that one,” Wadsworth said. “We’re shooting for No. 1 and the district title.”

Reach Peter Brewington at pbrewington@fauquier.com

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