Lady Knights: Gotta Get Better!
Gotta get better!
That has become the mantra for the girls’ basketball program this season.
Nobody realizes this more than Coach Jimmy Brown. Nobody! In his eighth year at the helm, he recognizes his team’s strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else. And he is quick to point out that “we gotta get better!”
Strengths? (1) Basically a perimeter team in recent years past, the Lady Knights’ inside game is still evolving – and that only promises to get better with time. Chalk one up for our post play! (2) A little more balanced attack than in past seasons, with several players capable of having good nights. And that balance equates to better depth throughout when Brown goes to his bench. (3) Brown really likes this team, and he truly believes that it has a chance to improve more than any team that he has had in eight years at Bishop O’Connell. He is confident that this team will be playing its best ball at the end of the season.
Weaknesses? (1) Better handling of defensive pressure, whether it be of the full-court variety or in half-court sets... just gotta do a better job of taking care of the ball and finding open teammates with passes. Just too many turnovers, many of which are of the unforced nature. (2) Do a better job of finishing – whether it be plays on the offensive end or playing hard on the defensive side for the full 30 seconds each possession with no breakdowns.
For followers of the girls’ game, the 2011-12 edition of the Lady Knights has an all-new look this season. Post play is in vogue! Entry passes into the posts have become commonplace as the DJO girls run more sets in the half-court. Admittedly, it is a work in progress, but the O’Connell mentor likes what he has seen so far. No longer is this just a motion team, with five players on the perimeter dialing long distance. The three-point shot is still a big part of the offense, but so too is the mid-range jumper and post play in the paint.
And, for good reason. For maybe the first time in Brown’s tenure, he has four girls inside that can score: 6’2” junior Tori Morris (pictured left), 5’9” junior Rebecca Periera (pictured above), 6’0” sophomore Monica Pearring and 5’9” sophomore Ashley Jean. That quartet is legit – and only getting better with experience.
Morris is a force in the paint, displaying some nice skills with her back to the basket and giving the Knights some physicality down low that has not been apparent in recent years past. Periera has been a pleasant surprise inside, whether it’s getting on the boards, scoring down low or manning up inside. She does a lot right, much of which will never be conveyed on a score sheet or stat chart. Pearring is evolving as a post player and is a nice option off the bench – making her presence known on both ends of the floor. And, when healthy, Jean has the potential to be a standout down low. Really, really like her potential!
As noted earlier, the three-point shot is still a staple of the DJO girls’ offense – especially when the ball is in Nicole Carty’s hands. The 5-foot-10 senior is having another great year, in all aspects of her game. She is an awesome all-around talent, on both sides of the ball. She is the top three-point shooter (61 treys total) in the Washington metropolitan area. But, she is so much more than that. She scores in oh so many ways, penetrating off the dribble and hitting the pull-up jay, driving the lane or baseline for lay-ins, tickling the cords from long range or kissing one off the glass from mid-range besides cashing in at the charity stripe. She leads the team in scoring (17.1 points per game), blocked shots (36) and steals (54) and is second only to Morris in rebounds, averaging 4.5 per contest. She is a complete player – and very possibly the best in Brown’s eight years at the helm. Whatever is needed, she gives him (i.e., with the game on the line the other night against McNamara and the visitors’ pressure defense stymieing the Knights, Carty was called upon to bring the ball up the court and get the DJO contingent into their offense; and, as should be expected, she did so – making a game of it late before dropping a 54-49 heartbreaker to McNamara). She does it all – and she does it all well. In a pre-game ceremony that same night, she was recognized for scoring her 1,000th point earlier in the week. She has had quite the career at DJO – and, fortunately for O’Connell, she’s not done yet.
Directing things from the point position are Rachel DiGiulian, a junior, and senior Kelly Luciani. Both these young ladies play hard and give the Lady Knights some toughness on the perimeter, looking to push the ball up the court at every opportunity. DiGiulian’s play has improved immensely over a year ago as she strives to learn the nuances of the point guard position. Coming off the bench, Luciani provides the team with some spark on both ends of the hardwood – penetrating and scoring in the lane or playing ball-hawking defense, second only to Carty in steals with 43 on the season.
Rounding out the starting lineup, more often than not, are juniors Megan David and Sydney Meruvia – two unheralded performers who just do a lot right, whether it’s getting on the floor after a loose ball or knocking down an open jumper with the game on the line. Little things, which are not apparent on any stat sheet, but, in the end, decide the outcomes of games. David is the Lady Knights’ defensive stopper, more often than not, drawing the assignment of covering the opponents’ go-to player. It’s a role she fills well! Meruvia, on the other hand, is just a player. She has a nice all-around game. Love her instincts for the game! Really, really do!
Brown also has some firepower coming off the bench in Catherine Irvin, a sophomore, and junior Shanna Ferrari – a pair of long-range threats. Irvin, in her second year at the varsity level, continues to work at her game – developing her drive to the basket and finishing, a complement to her already strong 3-ball game. She shows improvement each and every game. Ferrari, a standout at the JV level a year ago, can also dial it up from another area code. She has a nice touch from three-point land and is all but automatic from the charity stripe. And, not surprisingly, she is one of the team leaders – a quiet but effective leader. This, in itself, should not be underestimated but valued. Really like all that she has to offer...rest assured, more than meets the eye.
This is a program that is beginning to make some positive strides right now. Some good things are happening. Certainly, it’s not there yet. Nobody is saying that it is! No question, it is a work in progress. This is a team that is still finding its way – learning how to finish, as individuals and, even more importantly, as a team. Confidence wavers, game-to-game and even within the same game itself. Winning cures all, but this is a team still trying to master that trait: finishing, putting a "W" in the win column. Winners find a way to win; losers have trouble finishing, and, in truth, find a way to lose...something this team/program is still struggling with.
Love the mantra: gotta get better!
This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was!