Teamwork, rebounding keys for Raider successJanuary 27, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
The Southridge girls basketball team has had their ups and downs during this year’s hardwood campaign. The Raiders (6-14) have played hard and at times harnessed their abilities to their greatest effect, while other times they have let games that they could have won slip away in the fourth quarter.
But despite the setbacks they are eagerly looking forward to the sectional tournament as an opportunity to redefine themselves and their season. They believe that they are a better basketball team than their wins and losses total represents and are ready to step up and prove it.
“Our record doesn’t show the potential we have for the tournament,” said sophomore guard Kennedy Nalley. “Our record doesn’t show what kind of team we are. We were in so many close games that could have won. We have the potential to do some big things here.”
“I’ve had other coaches tell me ‘You guys are scary’, and they’re coming to scout us because we are a dangerous team,” added Raiders head coach Steve Rust. “We like to attack the basket and in some of those games our transition was good. Things like that we can use to propel us going forward.”
Rust said that a lot of the struggles the team faced were things that come with a team of players that had a small amount of collective varsity experience. They had to adapt and learn the speed of the game on the fly, which led to a few bumps along the road. Still, he did see some signs of growth and progression out of his team during the year.
“In comparison to the last two years this team was much better at not turning the ball over,” he said. “I think the other area where we progressed is with our perimeter play. There were stretches in certain basketball games where they were determined to win. When we had those stretches this team did a real good job of playing together. We shot the ball really well and were able to finish in those stretches.”
But now the key for the Raiders is taking those periods of increased productivity and extending them across a game environment where the level of competition is heightened to the tenth degree. It won’t be enough to just play with energy and enthusiasm — the girls have to learn from their past missteps and find ways to get stops and score points when the momentum of the game is up for grabs. To that end, the number one on-court element all the players point to when it comes to influencing the flow of their games is crashing the glass.
“We’ve let so many teams get easy baskets on offensive rebounds, even free throw rebounds,” said Nalley. “I think if we could get more rebounds, especially against the bigger teams, that would help us out a lot.”
“All the teams we play against are bigger than us, so if you’re not going to block out you’re not getting any rebounds,” added senior guard Mady Neukam. “That’s especially important for a team that is as small as we are.”
With that being said, the Raiders are also honed in on the factors that have contributed to their successes, and most notably the players feel that everything they have learned about one another and their play styles over the course of the season can be cashed in for a run in the tournament.
“We’re not as distant from each other, we’re playing as a team again,” said freshman forward Myah Montgomery.
“I think we’ve just learned what every player’s strength is and complemented each other with those things,” added Nalley. “Most of the time (we) work together with those strengths that we have, look for better shots for the people that need them, and put it all together to make it work.”
And while the team may not have the kind of height across the board that draws immediate concern, the Raiders still believe they have a level of quickness and speed they can use to power their offense and impact the game in their favor.
“When we move the ball, offensively we can really break teams down,” said Neukam. “We got a lot of quick girls. Penetrating and kicking out, we have a lot of great shooters for kickout threes. We can knock those shots down. So when we’re driving and moving the ball well, that’s one of our strengths.”
With the regular season behind them, the Raiders are eager to use the postseason to right some of their wrongs and offer proof as to what they are capable of when they harness all of their skills and talents to their greatest effect. The Raiders will be going into sectional with a positive thrust after winning their final regular season game and open tournament play against the Pike Central Chargers, whom they beat 54-50 in overtime when they faced them on Dec. 6 with Montgomery erupting for 38 points. Rust has boiled the Raiders’ recipe for success to a few keys that the team must accomplish if they are to secure the right to keep on playing.
“Most important is our defense and how we come up with stops,” he said. “We are going to have to be able to block out, stop the dribble-drive. On the flipside of that, we’ll have to be able to finish in the paint and take care of the basketball. I we do those things on both ends of the floor, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”
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