Prep girls basketball: Olympus focuses on fundamentals
The Olympus Titans have been running the same plays, perfecting the blocking, passing and shooting that will become their future. For the past two hours, they have executed the pick-and-roll, making sure that everyone knows her responsibilities and will be ready for the next game.
Regional play for the Titans girls basketball team has been rough, starting 0-4, but the players are using that as motivation to make a push toward the state tournament.
"In order to get to state, we need to win three games," point guard Kyra Johnson said. "We've learned from our mistakes and are going to make the best of these lessons, focusing on playing each game one at a time."
The sophomore is one of the many young faces on a team with a single senior, but Johnson knows that the Titans have the talent to compete. They have been competitive in every game but have fallen short in the end. Junior Abbie Brockbank notes that they have to play consistently for four quarters and knows that if they do, they'll win.
"We seem to play three out of four quarters," Brockbank said. "We need to step up and go all out for the entire game."
A missed pass causes coach Kael Ashton to bark at his players to do it again. He walks them through the play and expects them to master it. He tells them that trying doesn't cut it you either do it or you don't.
"If you can't get the ball in the hole, kick it to somebody who can," he tells his young team.
The girls look up from the floor and smile. Ashton paces at midcourt with his hands on his hips and tells them to do it again. Johnson swings the ball around the 3-point arc and bounce passes to Brockbank, who lays it up with her left hand. Quick high-fives, and they run the play again.
Their record doesn't reflect the team's cohesion. The players are a close group that has been saddled with injuries. They lost their top scorer, Rachel VanderToolen, to a knee injury, but Johnson and Brockbank are expecting everyone to step up and find her role on the team.
"We have a really talented, tight group of players that want to win," Johnson said. "We've progressed as a team, and the games are a lot closer than they were at the beginning of the season."
Ashton drives his players to do their best by preaching that basketball is a metaphor for life. The skills needed to be successful on the court will help them once they graduate.
"It's about pulling your weight," Brockbank said. "You have to do the hard work to be successful, and we are giving it our all."
The Titans treat every defeat as an opportunity to learn.
"This year we have had high expectations," Johnson said. "But now that we are in this spot we're in, let's build from this. Let's get to state and know we will be coming back next year."