Eastern Brown and Fayetteville are rivals in soccer, but last Friday it was the girls’ basketball teams that did battle in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference preview held at North Adams High School.
The Lady Warriors had trouble getting shots to fall all game long, something Fayetteville did not endure. The Rockets would roll to a 31-14 victory over the Lady Warriors.
Head coach Toby Sheets has a young team this year, as the Rockets return just three seniors from last year’s squad. The team has two freshman and two sophomores along with a trio of juniors. Despite the relative lack of experience among some players, Sheets says his team will be fine.
“We’ll be alright,” Sheets said. “It’s getting used to the pace of the game. We’re young. We’ll have kids back. Samantha [Murphy] has played her heart out over the years and I hope we can compete for her. I think we can and I think the other kids are working hard. The pace of the game is where we’re struggling at.”
There was one noticeable switch for the Rockets from years past: Samantha Murphy is no longer running the point for Fayetteville, something Sheets says could benefit his team this year.
“We had a good summer working together and trying to figure out what we had,” Sheets said. “Last year Samantha Murphy was our point guard. Cecelia Murphy being able to run that position is major for our team because it frees Samantha up so much. We ran Samantha at the point for a while in the summer and once she passed it off she never got it back. Cecelia running the point, she’s a good ball handler. She’s going to make freshman mistakes, but you’ll never doubt her toughness and anytime you say something to her as a coach she says ‘Yes, sir.’ She listens and pays attention, I’m happy with her. Key to the ball club.”
Regardless of the play on the court, Sheets knows the team has to avoid the injury bug if they want to have any shot at success this season.
“You’ve got to stay healthy,” Sheets said. “Samantha and Meghan [Koch] , we depend on them a lot. We need them. The other kids need to learn the pace. Just get better and better.”
A pretty solid case could be made that the Lady Warriors are even younger than the Lady Rockets. Sure, Eastern returned four seniors from last year’s team, but their opening lineup for the SHAC preview contained just two of them: Molly Prine and Abby Fultz. The Warriors started a pair of sophomores and a junior to round out the lineup. Head coach Kevin Pickerill said he knew his team was in trouble as soon as they fell behind to the Lady Rockets.
“They’re pretty athletic,” Pickerill said. “They do a good job presenting. Toby’s got his team ready. We were flat in practice, and when you practice like that…I knew we were in trouble when we got down there a little bit.”
Part of Eastern’s problem with shooting the ball came from the type of shots they were taking. Instead of driving to the basket and either attempting to score or kicking the ball out to a teammate, the Lady Warriors took perimeter jump shots that simply did not fall.
“We need to break the tape down to see what I’m trying to explain to them and improve on them,” Pickerill said. “I don’t think there was any penetration all night, we just stood around and hoped the three would go down. When you’re not shooting, you’ve got to get the ball into the paint and get some easy bunnies to get you going.”
Nonetheless, Pickerill said his team will be up to full speed in no time.
“I’m trying to speed the game up a little bit,” Pickerill said. “The kids are liking it, but we just have to get in the flow and we’re able to shoot the shots that we want to. You have to know when you’re down two or three where the ball has to go. We’ll get there.”
The team did lose a pair of seniors from last year’s team, and according to Pickerill, they have yet to fill all the roles those players played.
“We’ve got to reset the roles,” Pickerill said. “Our two seniors played a lot of minutes and you’ve got to recover that. One of them was by far our best defender and we haven’t recovered that yet. We’re probably a little smaller this year, we’ll play a lot of three-guard sets.”
Both teams open the regular season next week. Eastern tips the season off at the Paint Valley Classic Saturday, November 21 at 6:30 p.m. while Fayetteville opens their season on the road Tuesday night at West Union.