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Coventry girls basketball team improving under first-year coach

1/30/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

COVENTRY — Through Jan. 26, the Coventry High School girls basketball team had compiled an 8-7 overall record and a 4-5 mark in the Portage Trail Conference’s County Division.

“We’re doing better than I expected, but not quite as well as I might have wished,” said first-year head coach LaMont Wilson. “There has been a learning period this year for the team, but we’ve also done some things that we hadn’t done in recent history — such as beating Norton and Kent Roosevelt in the same year. However, we’ve also lost some games that I think we should have won.”

However, Wilson said some of those things stem from players under a new coach in a new system.

“That’s exactly what it is. There is a completely different coaching style than in the past few years, so there has been the matter of the players becoming indoctrinated into the system,” he stated. “I run a lot of stuff and sometimes we’ll be in a game and find out we are mixing offenses up a bit. So there is a learning period, and they’ve gotten better as the year has gone on. That shows in our record alone. We’re not in the bottom of the Portage Trail Conference anymore.”

Wilson said his players “love” the team’s current offensive system.

“It gives them more freedom to play basketball,” he said. “It’s more of a players’ offense and not a play offense, where they get stuck in plays all of the time. We give them an opportunity to create.”

In the team’s last few games, Wilson said, the whole team has needed to step up their games following the loss of point guard Karli Morisak, who is out four to six weeks due to illness.

“I had been pretty much using a seven-man rotation, and with her being out I’m down to six, and that’s kind of wearing the girls down a bit,” the coach said.

Morisak, who has been out since Jan. 22, has been instrumental in the team’s success, Wilson said.

“Karli’s been having a great year because she’s accepted her role as a point guard,” the coach said. “She has become more of a facilitator, instead of just someone going down and jacking up shots, and her being a facilitator has helped other girls to specialize in their roles.”

According to Wilson, junior Emily Cerepak has been especially important for the team since Morisak went out of the lineup.

“Emily broke the school record for threes in a game with six,” he said. “She has bought into our system so much that she has become a gym rat. Even on Sundays, she’s clamoring to get in the gym to work on her game. Her biggest improvement has been on defense. I had given her the nickname ‘Diana No-Defense,’ because she didn’t play defense. She just shot the ball. But I have had to change that name to ‘Diana Some-Defense,’ because she has gotten better.”

Wilson said there are three seniors on this year’s team, but all three had limited varsity experience heading into the season.

“I have Brittany Zittle, who didn’t play last year; Julia McGonigal, who didn’t letter last year; and Tyler Angle, who also did not letter last year,” he said. “So it’s not like we are a team leaning on senior leadership. In a lot of ways, this is a team built for the future. But those three seniors have stepped in and accepted their roles. Sometimes, seniors have a sense of entitlement, and that’s not a thing that I’m having to deal with. They’ve bought into the system, and that’s a key thing for this team.”

Rounding out Coventry’s rotation are juniors Chloe Baird and Courtney Basinger.

“A lot of pressure has been put on Chloe’s back, and she’s responded well wherever I have put her. She is giving the team what it needs in different areas,” the coach said. “And Courtney is doing well for us. She faces a lot of double teams, so she is learning how to read the defense a little better and throw skip passes.”

Wilson said this year’s team will head to the postseason looking to “stay competitive and build for next year.”

“If we had Karli, we’d be like a train running down the track,” he said. “But as it stands now, we will look to be competitive and try to keep improving.”

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