Attacking the basket is emphasis for SC guards, post players
By Rod Haxton, editor
If the upcoming season goes the way Sarah McCormick hopes, the Scott City girls will be spending a lot more time at the free throw line.
A point of emphasis as the Lady Beavers prepare for Friday’s season opener is being aggressive on the offensive end of the floor.
A lot of that responsibility will fall upon junior guard Bailey Latta who’s quickness and ability to drive to the basket created problems for opposing defenses last season.
“I need Bailey to penetrate much more this year because that’s her strength. When she can do that, she will get to the free throw line a lot more,” says McCormick, who expects to see a big improvement in Latta’s five points per game scoring average.
Likewise, more of that responsibility will also fall upon junior guard Kaitlyn Roberts (8.5 ppg) who was the team’s leading three-point shooter last year.
“She’s still more of a spot-up shooter, but I’ve also talked to her about getting to the free throw line more. She’s one of our top free throw shooters, but she can’t get to the line because she hasn’t been willing to penetrate,” says the head coach.
A newcomer to Scott City’s trio of guards is junior Macie Price who will run the offense at the point.
“She’s willing to play anywhere, but she’s played the point before and that’s where she’s most comfortable,” McCormick says. “I like what I’ve seen from Macie in practice, but I’ve never seen her as a game player.”
The head coach has a much better idea what to expect from her veteran players under the basket.
Senior forward Kiana Yager (10 ppg, 4 rpg) is joined by post players Paige Winderlin (sr., 5-10, 5.5 ppg, 6 rpg) and Emily Smith (jr., 5-11, 4 ppg, 7 rpg).
“I always put Paige on the most dominant offensive player. She’s not afraid to bang around on people and fight for rebound position,” McCormick says.
Smith, who didn’t begin seeing regular varsity minutes until the middle of last season, has emerged as the most improved player on the SCHS roster.
“She has such dominant post moves and her length is so valuable,” McCormick says. “What she can do defensively and offensively will surprise a lot of people. She’s coming into this season much more confident. She’s coaching the other girls and giving them pointers. It’s great to see her taking on more of a leadership role.”
However, there may be even greater expectations on Yager who is expected to improve on her scoring numbers from last season.
“Kiana is willing to take on that added responsibility,” notes McCormick. “If you want to be a scoring leader you have to have the mindset that you’re going to take on that role every single game. You welcome the challenge and say, ‘Tonight, climb on my back and let’s win.’ I see Kiana being that kind of leader.”
Scoring in Half-court
McCormick expects the team to be more offensive minded and for most of that to occur in the half-court.
“We can run and I’ve kind of had to put the reins on the girls in practice because I know we won’t always be able to get the transition points against better competition,” she says.
The head coach is anxious to see what the team can do offensively when Yager, Winderlin and Smith are on the floor at the same time. She anticipates creating mismatches which should lead to scoring opportunities.
“Having all three on the floor will allow us to do things we haven’t been able to do before,” she notes. “Of course, it depends on who we’re playing and the type of ball the other team is playing. If it’s an up-tempo offense, we probably don’t want to go with the bigger lineup.”
Depth could be somewhat of an issue early in the season. McCormick plans to suit up only nine players for the varsity squad which includes senior guard Nancy Wiebe, who has been battling some early injuries, and freshman guard Madison Shapland.
“It’s rare that I will suit up a freshman for varsity. When that does happen, I’ll tell them, ‘Don’t think. Just be an athlete,’” says McCormick of her back-up point guard. “Madison’s a little different because she’ll be one of the people handling the ball. When you do that you have to think. She can do so many things for us, but we’ll have to see how her role expands during the season.”
The head coach says her varsity roster is about eight deep with a number of younger girls still trying to learn where they fit on the team.
“Right now, we’re a veteran team, so a lot of things have been set,” she points out. “If girls want to get more playing time or get a position they want, they’ll have to work that much harder to get it.”
After nearly three weeks of practice, one thing that has stood out with McCormick is the increased level of basketball intelligence from a year ago.
“It’s so nice that they know what I want, so we can get through things quicker. That allows us to work on things I wanted to last year, but we couldn’t because we didn’t have the time,” she says.
“Their basketball intelligence is improving. They’re asking intelligent questions about the rotation of the defense or who should they be covering in a zone. Now they’re asking the questions that need to be asked because they’re understanding the game better.”
Now it’s a matter of applying that knowledge in a game situation.
“We’re ready to play someone. Sure, we’re dominating in practice, but things that we need to work on, our weaknesses, won’t stand out until we can play a game,” adds McCormick. “Right now, there are a lot of question marks.”
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