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Lady Hornet basketball has room for growth

The season started off well for Poplarville’s women’s basketball team.

The players came out the gates swinging and won three of their first four games.

However, the team seemed to lose steam as the season went on, and eventually ended the season just one game above .500.

“I think we started off strong, and I really think after Christmas we plateaued,” Head Coach Robin Jeffries said.

“The other teams in district just got better over time.

“We came out of the gate fast, but then we had a bunch of injuries.”

The injuries didn’t help the inconsistent play, but Jeffries also had to deal with a young, inexperienced squad who didn’t know the grind of a full season.

“I graduated three seniors and there are no seniors this upcoming year,” Jeffries said.

“The seniors didn’t bring points to the table but they brought leadership.”

“We aren’t going to have any seniors this year and we’re going have to have some juniors step up and score for us.”

The Lady Hornets struggled on the offensive end of the floor for stretches of the season.

However, that isn’t something Jeffries sees being a problem this upcoming year.

“When you’re weak on the offensive end of the floor (you) have to concentrate on the defensive end,” Jeffries said.

“I think we’ll be more balanced this year.”

Jeffries knew when she took the job that she would have to foster a “team first” environment.

“One of the big things I tried to tackle year one was developing a team chemistry and culture,” Jeffries said.

“To begin to have that winning attitude is so important.”

“Last year we took our chemistry from year one and put it on the floor.”

“I think that team chemistry we started in year one will carry over in year three and be a little more noticeable.”

Changing a program’s culture and identity isn’t something that happens overnight.

For the Lady Hornet basketball team their progress comes down to a few simple tweaks by Jeffries.

“First and foremost we have clear expectations from day one,” Jeffries said.

“Number two is communication and respect. We have an open door policy where I’m available to them and we can have a dialogue. Number three is identifying and understanding what the word ‘commitment’ means.”

The last change seems to be self explanatory, but for Jeffries it holds far more weight.

She stresses the importance of effort and selflessness within the team.

“Some people say they’re committed and they don’t even know what that means,” Jeffries said.

“When we say committed we have a list of things that we do to show we’re actually committed to the team.”

A determining factor for how next season will go is how the younger players step up and embrace leadership positions vacated by the graduating seniors.

“When you have a gap in between your team you can’t identify who is going to be a leader,” Jeffries said.

“Sophomores and seniors looking at each other can create animosity.”

“Now that the gap is closed the shared responsibility of the team will be better when it comes to leadership.”

Those unknowns, and the various aspects of being in the offseason has led to Jeffries setting optimistic, but also realistic goals.

“I would really like to be top three in the district,” Jeffries said.

“I always want to be number one, but my realistic goal is I’d love to be in the top three.”