It has been a rough season for Eagles girls basketball, with six wins to 10 losses. Perhaps some of the hardest to see have been the several games the teams lost by only a few points.
For anyone taking an interest in the team, every win — such as the fourth game in the recent Toby Yoho Classic, in which the Eagles beat Boonville by seven points in overtime — has been uplifting.
Boonville led 25-19 at the half before the Eagles, despite the loss in the fourth quarter of top-scoring senior Tanner Chapman, came back.
After the team’s performance during the two-day classic, coach Matt Roberts said the improvement over the season has been noticeable.
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“As we get more confident in our ability to win games, then we’re going to win some of those close games,” he said.
And some of that confidence is not just in themselves but in each other.
The team has three seniors: Chapman, Emily Brady and Dakota Anderson. Chapman is the top scorer, averaging around 11 points per game and scoring 28 against South Knox.
But after scoring 9 points against Boonville, Chapman was struck in an already injured leg and was out for the last quarter.
“I think we are all really supportive of each other, so when we know someone’s injured, we try to pull together even more, to really try to pull out the win for them too,” said Brady, who scored 15 points in that game.
But making that happen takes trust in the younger members of the team to get the job done, such as sophomore Maddy Edds, who was second in scoring against Boonville with 13 points.
“Basketball’s all a trust game, trusting that your teammate is going to do what they’re supposed to do, so that you can guard your man 100 percent and know that your player is going to have your back,” said junior varsity and assistant varsity coach Molly Fox.
Freshman Hallee Miller has scored 33 points this season. She said the biggest adjustment, after playing in eighth grade, is being at the bottom rather than the top of the experience ladder. Yet, she’s excited to be getting varsity time as a freshman.
“It’s intimidating, but it’s still really fun,” she said.
Miller said she had to work to prove herself to her more experienced teammates. She began making a conscious effort early on to step up her game at practice so they would know they could trust her with the ball.
“Sometimes, if we get in foul trouble, they have to be put in,” Brady said of the younger players. “But it’s not always a ‘have to,’ it’s ‘let’s get ’em in there to get some experience.’ Because we want to, because we can, to develop that trust for future seasons.”
With the majority of the season behind them, even with improvements, the Eagles are not likely to see a huge change in their fortunes between now and their first sectional game, Tuesday, Feb. 10.
But looking past this season, the future shows a lot of potential.
“I’m really excited. I feel like we can go far,” Miller said. “… The eighth-graders now are going to do really well next year. I feel like they’ll get playing time on varsity, too.”
Building that base for the future is an active part of Roberts’ philosophy, Fox said.
“He’s building a program, and that’s what I love about coach Roberts,” Fox said. “He’s not just focused on this year; he’s focused on the future of our program.”
That includes making an added effort to work with players as early as the third grade, focusing mostly on fifth- through eighth-grade girls, Roberts said. It also means coordinating with the coaches who are working with the younger players, and communicating with them about key areas where he sees the players needing improvement.
Even in the older players, the benefits of early exposure to the game are apparent. Chapman said she began playing in kindergarten, and Brady began in fifth grade.
Roberts said having a consistent program throughout grade levels is a common element among the most successful teams.
At the moment, that means focusing on improving the basics, Roberts said.
“When you get into offensive philosophy or defensive strategy, we can do some of that too,” he said. “But, to me right now, we need more of a fundamental approach to things.”