Coach’s Corner, Part 9



Freshman Quynh Vu enters a pass to sophomore Ellie Greene in last night’s JV game at Central Catholic.

There is always something bittersweet about a season ending.

On the one hand it’s nice to get my life back.  Longer, brighter days. Warmer weather. Infinitely more time.  Far less stress, better sleep and a big sigh of relief.

On the other hand, the end of a season feels like a death.  It’s nowhere near that level, of course, but the feeling is there just the same.  Temporary. But there.

Something is definitely missing when a season ends.

Some seasons end better than others, but in the end they all end just as they should.  Good teams make the playoffs; average and weak teams do not.

While we battled and were close or beat everyone except Central Catholic, in the end we were pretty much an average team.  Inconsistency was our nemesis. Sometimes we clicked and looked pretty good, and sometimes we were as out-of-synch you can imagine.  

Earlier this season I wrote that girls basketball games are usually won in three areas:  Lay ins, rebounds and free throws. This held true for us as surely as spring rain in Oregon.  

We shot better than 66% from the line in our wins, and less than 53% in our losses.  Same sized hoop. Same distance. Same ball. Vastly different outcomes, and our misses cost us a playoff spot, while our makes helped us beat teams we shouldn’t have.   

We shot a combined 15-21 and beat two teams that we had no business beating—Clackamas and Barlow—in our second round games.   

But we missed 10 straight free throws in the second quarter two weeks ago when we lost to David Douglas on Pink Night, and were only up 6 at half when we should have been up 15, eventually losing by three.

The worst of it came last Friday on senior night: We had a free throw with a couple of seconds left to beat Sandy in regulation, but eventually lost in overtime when we missed five more consecutive free throws in the four-minute period.   

It’s baffling, to say the least.  My dad, who knows very little about basketball but still attends games to support me, commented after that game, “You know, I bet you would have won most of your games if you guys could make free shots.”  (Yep, he calls them “free shots,” and at 85 he can call them anything he wants…..)

We practice free throws and have several little “games” to try to make them “stressful” like they are on Tuesdays and Fridays.  One of those is to make as many consecutive free throws as you can in an allotted period of time. We never end that “drill” if someone is on a streak.  Over the years I’ve had players break 50 a couple of times, and 25 is common during a season. But for this year’s team nobody made 20, and there is a direct correlation between that our inconsistency in games.  

One interesting side note:  Maddie McHone, who is NOT a good free throw shooter and will openly admit that, made me pay for challenging her at practice last Thursday.  She had made six in a row, and I opened my mouth and said I’d run a line drill if she got to 12. She did. So I challenged her to “double or nothing,” and she made #13.




Then she came out and drained several in the Sandy game.    Go figure.

And, yes, I ran the line drills.   (Well, “ran,” is in the eye of the beholder.  I waddled up and back enough to say I paid my debt, and there is video to prove it, thanks to Ellie Basinski.  Don’t laugh if you see it because Father Time, back surgery and pending knee replacements will catch you, too.)

The point is, it was impossible to predict anything this season with our up and down free throw shooting, and the same can be said for lay ins and rebounds.  We were all over the place, which made strategizing sort of like striking a piñata, blindfolded.

Looking back, here are some of the top memories—good and bad–of our season.

  • Beating Clackamas and Barlow in the same week.  I’d have to censor them, but I’d love to share some of the texts I received after each of those games.  We were simply not expected to be close in either of those games, let alone win them both.
  • The last two home games.  The crowds for Douglas and Sandy were great, and I wish we could have won both games just to reward the crowd for the support. As Assistant Coach Alex Macke said about Friday, “It was electric.  If you are a competitor, you have to love that!”
  • A side note on the Sandy game.  As you read earlier, I coached those kids for two years before I came back to Centennial, and I know their “games” well.  Our kids did just about everything we asked of them defensively last Friday, but two mistakes were critical. We let Izzy Cabrera hit her only 3-point attempt by not closing out quickly enough.  Izzy is a shooter and had more than 50 threes on the season, so one is not a big deal. The back-breaker was Sarah Dukart. I wrote about her after our last game against the Pioneers—she had taken 50,000 shots in the offseason headed into her junior year….  In total, she got one shot off against us in each game, and she finished the series with SIX points; 2-2 from the field. Six points. I won’t share the names, but we had players take 15 shots to get 6 points against Sandy. Sarah’s efficiency KILLED us and I hope the lesson is taken to heart by our own kids: You have to practice this game to be consistent.
  • Losing to Reynolds the first time would go down as one of the most embarrassing losses we’ve had in the last 30 years.   We shot 11-57 in that game against a team that literally did not defend us and chose instead to let us shoot, and shoot and shoot.  It turned out to be a brilliant game plan as we had more rebounds, fewer turnovers, more shots than the Raiders.
  • Redeeming that first round loss to Reynolds by cruising to a 34-point lead early in the 4th quarter of the second game behind Ellie’s 33 points.  
  • Losing Trinity Miller to a season-ending knee injury in the first Sandy game.  Trinity was our leading 3-point percentage shooter when she was injured, and it could be argued that we were never able to replace her.
  • Finding sophomore Naomi Daychild, who was one of the few players in the league who could create her own shot.  Daychild brought an element to the team—shooting savvy and quick hands defensively—that sparked us to all of our second-half league wins.
  • Losing Daychild, who is originally from a small Indian Reservation in Montana and could never quite figure out how to handle the change to a bigger school.  She moved back to Montana last Saturday. We all hope she finds her way as deep down she is a sweet kid with loads of basketball talent.
  • Winning the Astoria Holiday Tournament.  This is not a high-powered event by any stretch, but you would not know that by the look on our kids’ faces when they held that trophy.

Looking ahead to next year there is potential to be a decent team.  

Freshman Quynh Vu has all the makings of a good point guard.  Heady, fundamental, coachable.

Junior Charlie Marcum had some great moments this season.  I’d like her to add to her game, but she’s a physical kid who can mix it up.  

Ellie led us in scoring and rebounding this year and it looks like she can become our “go to” player.

We have a couple of sophomores who can play right away.  Ellie Greene, will step into the middle quite nicely. Like senior Maggie Martine she is undersized as a post, but she can step out to knock down perimeter shots and is a strong kid.  Lydia Paskar has a motor that won’t shut down and is will run through a wall to win. Naomi Maldonado had very little experience to start the season but is so smart and has so much pride she developed into a very solid, all-around player who is even shooting the 3 pointer now.  Madisen Kramer could finally become a full-time starter. She’s a bit like McHone; she will be the best athlete on the court and has all the tools but needs a little polish. Milana Oliphant is not afraid to use her sharp elbows. And a healthy Trinity will be a big boost.

Potential, yes.  A guarantee, no.  

Maybe some of these kids will learn the lesson that Sarah Dukart taught them.