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ALBRIGHT: Calhoun girls met expectations, now comes the hard part

Imagine you are a member of the Calhoun County girls’ basketball team. Staring you down every campaign is the fact the program has never had a winning season. It is an unblinking and unavoidable mark weighing on your mind year after year. There’s no escaping the weight until it is lifted.

Now, imagine being a member of the Red Devils’ team who finally broke that streak.

What is the next thing your teammates and you want to do? Have another winning season, right?

It didn’t matter the expectations were higher and the schedule ramped up a bit in difficulty. Goals remained the same.

It didn’t matter the starters consisted of two sophomores, a junior and two seniors. Everyone gelled quite nicely last season.

It didn’t matter the start was rough at 2-4, including losses to a Class AA regional qualifier and Class A state tournament qualifier, not to mention Class AA state qualifier in Bridgeport who nearly knocked off top-seeded North Marion in the opening round of the state tournament. Playing good teams is part of the climb.

It didn’t matter perennial powers Williamstown, Parkersburg Catholic and Huntington St. Joe stood in the way of a trip to the state tournament. Everyone enjoyed the winning feeling and now they wanted more — no matter who it comes against.

How much more?

Well, sixteen wins, including a nine-game winning streak, and a trip to a sectional quarterfinal more to be exact.

“Overall, it was a really good season. I was proud of what we were able to accomplish,” said Calhoun County head coach Kevin Boak.

Yes, the excitement is sky high in Mount Zion. Players are excited. Parents are excited. Fans are excited. In fact, more supporters turned up at home games than Boak ever remembers at a girls basketball game — each one liking what they saw and saying they would be back for more.

Everyone wants more of Josie Montgomery advancing up the Class A all-state lists, while she leads the Red Devils in the re-formatted classification. Everyone wants more of speedster Savannah Cunningham utilizing her quicks to either score an easy layup or kick it out to a shooter for an open shot. Everyone wants more of an “undersized” Kaylin Parsons battling for rebounds and blocking shots alongside teammate Joselynn Yeager.

But here’s the hard part – All the opposition knows what’s coming now.

Teams won’t take Calhoun lightly and some may even be out for revenge. St. Marys rings a particular bell in this case.

And next year Boak won’t have Madison Dennis’ 10 points per game or Karlie Whited’s standout defense. On top of the loss of Whited’s lock down defense, Dennis’ speed in the open court is gone. This means a likely change from a transition-and-defense-based team to a half-court-and-defense-based team.

Boak realizes the kind of team he has. He’s already choosing the right kinds of motivations for his young ladies, sharing with them the last two seasons are average years for Gilmer County or St. Marys or Williamstown. “We are trying to become those teams. And we want to get to the point where our opposition knows they are in for a battle against us. We want 15 or more wins every season,” said Boak. “We have to work hard to get that.”

Given the defensive tenacity they showed against Magnolia as well as in other games this season, it’s safe to say his girls took that message to heart.

They also already beat the teams they are supposed to beat, which is part of becoming a consistent team. Now, it is about claiming victories over the groups favored to best them. They came close several times last season. “I thought we should have won the Williamstown game and one of the Gilmer games,” said Boak. “I think the pressure we were facing against those teams that have played those types of games before got to us.” Not by much, though. A combined thirteen points was the margin of victory in said contests.

Now, each Red Devil can draw on the experience of those high-pressure games. Each player can keep their cool and play their game in the first or second periods, instead of settling down after the game is out of reach.

It’s all part of the growing process — one Calhoun County appears ready for next winter.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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