Lady Lions overcoming slow start as they gain experience

The Lady Lions’ Tina Lawrence, above, is one of the few returning starters who have varsity experience.

The Lady Lions’ Tina Lawrence, above, is one of the few returning starters who have varsity experience.
By Chris Chaney
Sun staff

The New Richmond Lady Lions have learned through the first nine games of the 2012-13 campaign that experience cannot be taught, it must be earned.

At 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the Southern Buckeye Conference, the Lions have done a stand-up job of winning in the face of inexperience. And Coach Brad Hatfield is confident that with half of the season under the team’s collective belt, the pieces are now in place to make a surge toward a league title.

“I think we started out a little disjointed and not really playing as a team,” he said. “We were trying to put some pieces together that really weren’t fitting at the time and we’ve been working on that. We’ve started a freshman point guard in every game and it’s taken her about nine games to fit into what we’re trying to do and help us get the ball to where it belongs.”

Coming off of a 17-5 season and a sectional semifinal appearance, expectations were high for the Lady Lions, but the program lost a lot of varsity experience from that team and are just now filling those roles that were left by graduating seniors Sarah Shoemaker, Mikaela Rupp and Courtney Grogan.
“We’ve been playing a lot of people a lot of minutes who had basically no varsity experience coming into this season, so I think we saw a couple losses against Amelia and Norwood because of that,” Hatfield said. “I think those are games that we can win in the second half of the season. But since then, I think we’ve picked it up and turned the corner.”

Despite the inexperience, the Lady Lions jumped out of the gate quickly, winning their first three games of the season before dropping back-to-back contests against Amelia and Norwood as Coach Hatfield mentioned.

As it does, with each passing day the young team’s experience and confidence has grown and that has manifested itself into winning three out of the last four games.

With a run of games against out-of-league opponents, the Lady Lions have some time to gain valuable experience and work on some weaker features of their game before facing off with SBC-American teams for the second time around.

“We want to work on defensive intensity and playing team defense,” Hatfield said. “Knowing our opponents, we want to play smart team defense. We want to work on offensive execution as far as getting the ball to where it needs to go and start clicking on all cylinders instead of depending on just one player all the time.”

That one player is 6-foot-5 junior center Josie Buckingham who has been pacing the Lady Lions with 15.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game.

Hatfield is looking for more production and output from his guards as they become more comfortable within the New Richmond system.

“We definitely want to play a stronger second half against our league opponents,” Hatfield said of his expectations for the second half of the season. “We went 2-3 through the first five games of the league, but we would like to see 5-0. That would be the goal, but anything better than 2-3 would be an improvement.”

The Lady Lions will look to pick up some steam and continue the two-game winning streak that they are on with games against Batavia, Ripley-Union, Georgetown and Seton before getting back into the American Division of the SBC on Jan. 24.