Girls basketball plans to initiate changes for upcoming season

Brandon Mankoff, Sports Editor

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The loud music echoed off the walls in the main gym and pommers energized the crowd as the girls basketball team warmed up against Deerfield last year on Dec. 6. The stakes were very high because Deerfield is a big rival, according to senior Morgan Paull.

As the Spartans headed into the fourth quarter down nine after several lead changes, Paull said the team needed to play at their best in order to come back. As time elapsed, the Spartans tied the game late in the quarter and made some key shots to escape with a 48-46 victory.

“Coming out with a win was so special because it was a team effort,” said Paull. “Everyone contributed in their own ways which led our team to finally find our groove. Beating Deerfield was an indicator that our team was one to be reckoned with.”

Despite the team’s key win last year, Danielle Fluegge, girls basketball head coach, said the team had many ups and downs last season. After finishing 9-16 and getting knocked out of the playoffs in the regional semifinals, she said changing the team’s defense from a 2-3 zone to a more intense 1-3-1 zone and more man-to-man coverage is a priority for the upcoming season.

“For me, defense is everything,” said Fluegge. “I love defense, [but] sitting back on our heels and kind of being slow-footed always killed me watching our program, and so we are going to be doing some things a little bit differently to build on these girls’ fundamentals and also make them take more ownership over our defense.”

Matt Fastert, girls basketball assistant coach, said tryouts, which began on Oct. 30, were done differently than years prior. In order to make the team last year, in addition to showing talent, players were required to run a mile under 7 minutes, but now the coaches have instead implemented the “Elite Eight,” which is a combination of eight different strength, sprinting and basketball requirements. Some sprinting requirements include 13 lane slides in 32.0 seconds and 17 sidelines in 75.0 seconds. Some of the basketball requirements include making 10 out of 10 free throws, five out of five 3-pointers and five full court alternating layups in 1 minute while making two free throws right after. As for strength, each girl is expected to do be able to do 30 pushups.

Fluegge said she has also sought out new drills for the team this year to help them improve.

“I am always looking for new drills,” said Fluegge. “Drills that are challenging and make the girls competitive but also are really fun, and I am really lucky. I have a pretty good wealth of coaches around me who I can steal [drills] from. One of my best friends just became a coach at the Philadelphia 76ers so I am always, like, tapping into my buddies who are still in the coaching world.”

According to Fluegge, the team only graduated two seniors last year, so there will be many returning varsity players. She hopes seniors Nicole Amen and Samm Carsello, who will be fourth-year varsity players, will help lead the team.

“The expectations now, as I tell [Amen and Carsello] all the time, are really high for them because we made that investment knowing there would be a big path in the end, and I think that’s where they’re headed,” Fluegge said.

Senior Melissa Tucker said she also expects sophomore Christina Christos, who was moved up to the varsity team midway through the season last year, to step up as a primary ball handler for the team and perform at a high level.

Paull said the team has been doing a lot to prepare. In the offseason, they lift two days a week and then go to the fieldhouse to play basketball. On the other two non-lifting days, the team works on shooting and dribbling drills before transitioning into games against each other. The team also participates in a fall ball league through ALL IN Athletics every Sunday in which they play other high schools.

Fastert said the girls have been working hard in the offseason, and he would like to see this year’s team improve its attitude before entering each game.

“We are not the tallest basketball team,” said Fastert. “So, sometimes in warm-ups, I feel like you look across the court and you see [other teams] have, like, three six-footers and the rest of the girls are like 5’8, 5’9. I think sometimes that kind of gets in our head a little bit so we need to be the more aggressive, mentally tough team.”

Fluegge said she expects to have a better record than last season due to her “experienced” team.

“I think that the sky’s the limit for the program, and I think that we’re headed in a really great direction,” Fluegge said.

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Girls basketball plans to initiate changes for upcoming season