The 2016-2017 ELHS varsity girls’ basketball team, featuring just one senior and six juniors, made it to the state quarterfinals last year. The youthful group, coached by Rob Smith (in his fifteenth year in the program), hopes that this will provide some energy to make another successful run in the state tournament.
The program is heavy on traditions, according to Smith. “The main thing for this season in terms of our goals is building on tradition. We want to play East Lansing basketball,” he said. “In terms of goals, we want to reach our full potential, and we feel like when we evaluate where we could be that’s probably at the highest level in the state. We want to compete with the best teams in the state.”
Four starters return to the lineup this year (Graduate Taryn McCutcheon now plays for Michigan State’s women’s team and graduate Danni Hanson is now playing for Lawrence Tech).
When asked how he expects McCutcheon’s graduation will affect the team, Rob Smith is hopeful. “You never replace a player like Taryn but my thing has always been defense, so if you are a smart player and you have a big heart… the wins and championships can be matched, and even built on a little bit further.”
Senior post player Deasia Miracle knows she will have to step up. “Since I’m the only senior, I feel that I should take responsibility of leadership,” she said. When asked about what the team is doing to ensure another successful season, she said they’re “focusing in practice on getting down the fundamentals so in the games it will be no problem for us to just get down and beat these teams”
The team also includes six juniors who have been on the varsity team since their freshmen year. Coach Smith hopes these juniors also step up in leadership roles. He says the team “should be developing into a much closer group this year, in terms of maturity and skill level.”
One of those juniors is Amelia McNutt, a point guard. She knows the goals that must be achieved for a winning season. “We all have one main goal and to get to that goal, we all need to be focused, give our best effort, and keep our body language positive,” she said. In order to do so, she highlights “making sure our maturity level is where it is supposed to be and our health so we can all give our 100% effort every game” as two main keys to success.
Coach Smith looks forward to a tough non-conference schedule that includes teams like Waverly, DeWitt, St. Johns, Haslett, Williamston, and Muskegon. He says these are the “top programs in the state.” McNutt is also looking forward to the game against DeWitt. “I used to go there and they’re all top competitors,” she said. Miracle is looking forward to the game against Waverly. “They’re some really tough girls and they play really hard. We just need to push back and fight harder than them and stay positive,” she said.
In terms of conference games, Coach Smith highlighted Grand Ledge, Okemos, and Holt as top games. “Most of our games we look forward to doing something better than the last one,” he said.
The team kicks off its season with a non-conference game December 2 at Waverly High School. Its first conference game follows one week after against Jackson High School, at home, on December 9.
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