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PRC basketball reloads after losing five seniors

The Lady Devils’ basketball team cycled through drill after drill, starting with a five on five exercise where the emphasis was placed on fighting over screens.

Head Coach Tony Labella stopped the drill frequently to give his younger players some pointers as they faced more experienced veterans who were on offense.

The squad lost five seniors to graduation heading into this year.

Not only is a lot of depth gone, but the leadership those veterans provided was invaluable to the team.

Labella is using these preseason practices to try and build the squad’s depth back up after losing so many players.

“Last year we had maybe an eight man rotation. That’s where we’re hoping to get, but we’re not where we want to be right now,” Labella said.

The practices have been focused on fundamentals as Labella tries to get the younger players up to speed. 

With the team’s first game against George County just a couple weeks away, practices would normally start including game planning for the opposing team.

However, because of the overall inexperience the workouts have stayed pretty simple as the athletes adjust to the pace of varsity play.

“The jump from 7th and 8th grade to varsity is a big leap, and I don’t want to overwhelm them,” Labella said.

The focus on fundamentals also embodies Labella’s mantra of doing the little things right.

Whether it be defensive positioning, communication or shooting form, the players are focusing on the intricacies of the sport.

“We lost a bunch of games last year because of little things like a missed assignment, or going up and getting fouled and not hitting our two (free throws). You lose close games that way,” Labella said.

The margin for error is small in basketball, like any other sport, and with a season that lasts four months sometimes fatigue can affect a player’s ability to make the right decision in game.

Practices started when school began in August, the team’s first competitive game is at the start of November, and the playoffs don’t start until mid February.

The team will be working on improving its depth, but until then Labella said he’ll need to focus on making sure his players stay in shape.

“I think I need to do a better job of keeping them fresher this year. I thought we got a little tired at the end of last year, and this year there’s that risk because we’re not as deep as we want to be,” Labella said.

Most of the starters heading into this season played last year, but their time on the court will now skyrocket with the five seniors from last year gone.

There will be obstacles the players have to overcome, and how the players handle those situations will determine the team’s success.

“I’m curious to see the first time we have a little adversity how we handle it. The players will need to do all the good things they’ve done before, but now play a ton of minutes too,” Labella said.

The main goal for Labella is for his team to be able to host a home playoff game.

Home games are awarded to the top teams in the district tournament, and Labella said to get there the athletes will have to improve on their shooting.

“The kids from the last few years, all those kids would run through a brick wall. But they’d be the first to tell you that if our free throw percentage was better, if we had shot the ball better from the field we would’ve won more games,” Labella said.

The team will continue working on those aspects of the game until their first matchup of the season against George County on Nov. 4 at 6 p.m.