Coach’s Corner, Part 6



Maddie McHone, senior.

Jeff Stanek, Adviser

We play the University of Central Catholic tonight.  While we have had some success against them in the past, this is not supposed to be a very close game.  When it comes to playing top-level teams I don’t mind coaching against CC because their defensive schemes are usually traps with two players on the ball rather than locking on to each of our players individually.  The traps give us a chance to move to open spaces and swing the ball; tough man-to-man defense forces us to do things individually that we simply do not have the skills to do.

Still, CC is a perennial playoff team with a long history of winning in the biggest sports, so this is a mismatch on paper.

But it was a mismatch several years ago when we beat them on their home court to break their 7-year home court winning streak, so anything can happen.  (They later avenged that loss a few games later by purposely missing a free throw with just a few seconds left in order to try for the rebound to score 100 points.  We had our JV on the court at the time; they had varsity starters. The irony of the evening—I had to take an online sportsmanship class because I got ejected for protesting the situation and couldn’t coach the next game.  They went on to win the league.)

Central has the complete package—a quality big kid, a solid point guard, and a slew of shooters.  Year after year, the difference between the Rams and the lower-tiered teams in the MHC is that most of their kids play on expensive club teams all year, and none of ours do.

I’m not complaining.  But I also cannot sweep their advantages under the rug, and that is why I am so bothered by the OSAA’s refusal to recognize that private schools should be in their own league.  It is a joke to think the rules they follow and the rules we follow are the same. Their players do not even have to live in Oregon; they can actively recruit good players from public schools even when a game has just ended, and the socio-economic differences are absurd.  

Still, I’d rather be an Eagle as I believe earning success is way more rewarding than recruiting it.  But CHS is a big underdog in all five boys and girls games being played here tonight—Frosh, JV and Varsity.

We won 48-34 at Gresham Tuesday to notch our first league win of the season.  That game was not as close as the score indicates as we jumped to a 15-1 lead at the quarter and led by 20 or more much of the second half.  Even though the Gophers would not go away we tried a lot of different combinations in the second half, so it was a good night for us.

Gresham pounded us 59-40 on the boards and probably won the “give a bruise” battle by even more than that, so we were fortunate to get out of there alive.  But sophomore Naomi Daychild hit five first-half 3 pointers to propel us early, and we really never looked back.

Last Friday we headed to Sandy to face the team I had coached a couple of years ago. Whatever nerves I had were quickly squashed as I spent the end of the JV game attending to Trinity Miller who suffered a bit of a knee injury in the JV game.  Trin is out indefinitely and we may not know the real issue until she has some imaging, so fingers are crossed.

“I guess I shouldn’t have played JV,” she said Friday through a painful smirk.  That’s because she and I discussed whether she should swing or not that night, and she chose to play a bit of JV in order to get some extra minutes, even though she was going to start the varsity game.   Losing her hurts our varsity team as she was our top 3-point shooter by percentages and had just hit three of them the game before.

She didn’t see it because he had turned away, but Trin’s dad shed a few tears watching his daughter fight through the pain.  It was moment that made me wish I had kids of my own; not because I want to see them hurt but because, well, it was nice to see a father’s love.

As I explained last week I was not sure how Sandy would react to me returning, but as I heard the first pre-game song I knew things were OK.  When I coached the Pioneers (that is still hard for me to say) we played country music for the pre-game warm-up. I can’t tell you how many teams would stop their routine to complain about the music when we did this; I thought it was worth five points every night.  So when Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” welcomed the teams to the court—the same song we played when I was there—I just smiled and enjoyed the rest of the night. And I didn’t even care that the rest of the music was awful.

It was a classy gesture by those kids.

We played hard against Sandy and had a couple of shots in the last 10 seconds to send it to overtime, but it just didn’t happen.  Still, I was proud of our girls as we followed the game plan about as well as we could have and almost stole the game, losing 34-31.  

That three-point difference came from a Sandy player named Sarah Dukart whose only shot of the night, a 22-footer, was so pure it barely hit the net on its way to through.  We stopped Sandy’s “Big Three.” They were averaging 28 points a night between them and got just 9 against us.

It was a kid off the bench who created the margin, and I’m very proud of her for doing that to us.  Headed into the spring of my final year at Sandy I challenged the players to improve by shooting 50,000 shots before the next season. (That is not as drastic as it sounds—it’s 500 shots/100 times over 9 months—it’s what passionate players do…)  Sarah did that, and even though she is not a phenomenal athlete or great player, she is a heady kid who now has the confidence to hit big shots.

So many players put their shoes away in the offseason then wonder why they haven’t improved or why they don’t get more playing time.   

Sarah listened.

Then beat us.  

Nobody will know the hours she put in to prepare for that, but I do.  

And I’m happy for her.