By Rick Palsgrove
When the season began, Kent Long, head coach of the Canal Winchester 1 Maroon girls third and fourth grade basketball team, wasn’t sure what kind of team he had.
“For four of the girls, this was their first year of playing basketball,” said Long.
However, that did not hold the team back as it went undefeated in the regular season with a 9-0 record in the 13 team Canal Winchester Joint Recreation District’s third and fourth grade girls division. The league includes teams from Canal Winchester, Millersport, Bloom-Carroll, Liberty Union, Bernie Union, Fairfield Union, and Fairfield Christian.
Long said his players are a “very coachable group.” He said some of the keys to the team’s success this year were a focus on how the game works, concentration on fundamentals, learning the plays, knowing your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and strong support and encouragement from the players’ parents.
“Another key,” said Long. “is having the players learn all the positions on the team. This way the kids learn all the aspects of the game from the points of view of all the positions. If a girl normally plays forward, having her play guard now and then teaches her to understand what’s involved in both positions and enables her to read the game and control the flow of the game better. It’s all about learning and developing. Winning is a side benefit.”
Long said understanding the game of basketball and learning its complexities is a growth process for the girls.
“They can apply what they learn playing basketball to other sports they play, such as softball and soccer,” said Long. “They learn about movement, reading the angles, mental aspects, and gaining strength.”
Long said a highlight for the team this season was when it defeated a strong Fairfield Christian team 20-10.
“Fairfield Christian had been beating other teams badly,” said Long. “It was an intense game when we defeated them. The key to our victory was our play on defense. I tell the girls that if you play good, solid defense you will win games. No team has scored more than 12 points on us all season.”
Long’s Canal Winchester 1 Maroon team is one of three Canal Winchester teams in the league. The others are Canal Winchester 3 Gray and Canal Winchester 2 White. The Gray team also had a strong season, losing only one game, and that was to the Maroon team. (The Millersport 1 White team also finished the regular season with one loss)
“We all know each other and we’re friends,” said Long of the three Canal Winchester teams.
Canal Winchester 1 Maroon team members are: Kylie Long, Lila Voss, Natalie Adams, Vanessa Beard, Emma Farley, Kaylee Greenlee, and Maelynn Olbrantz. Head coach is Kent Long and the assistant coach is Amy Voss.
Next up for the undefeated Maroon team is the post season tournament, which will be Feb. 24 and March 2 at Berne Union School.