Southmoreland girls basketball program making strides after program reached brink
In January 2012, the Southmoreland girls basketball team looked to be on the brink of elimination.
Illness and injuries had reduced an already depleted roster to just four players (three freshmen and a sophomore). Two games had to be postponed.
If the numbers would have remained that small, the sport could have eventually been dropped. According to Title 9 regulations, if a girls sport has to be dropped, the same happens to a boys sport. A number of girls vowed not to let that happen and joined the team, saving the sport and winning a game in the process.
Fast forward to the 2013-14 season, the Scotties finished 9-12 and remained in the playoff hunt until the season's final weeks. There was a four-game winning streak just one season removed from winning only three games.
Brian Pritts is in his second year as coach in his second stint as the girls court boss (1998-2009) and is quick to credit the players
“It's tremendous resolve on their part to persevere,” Pritts said recently. “We talk about adversity all the time. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're as competitive as I am. If you can learn from a loss, it's going to make you better in the long run.”
The girls have become better and it's probably not a coincidence it happened as they became more of a team.
“It wasn't about one of them,” Pritts said. “We preach that when we're sitting in the locker room. ‘Look to your right, look to your left. That's who you're playing for. You're playing for the name on the front of the jersey.'”
They got it and they did play for each other. They learned how to compete. That was the big step. Now they're having fun with the game. I think they're going to continue on.”
Senior Hannah Porter was not on the roster in the 2011-12 season, but did play the season before that and the last two campaigns. She has witnessed the improvement and as a result a team that is, indeed, having more fun.
“It's been kind of like a roller coaster ride,” Porter said. “Our coaches have said, ‘We can tell you guys are having more fun, you're smiling more.' Overall, the vibes are good.”
Both Porter and sophomore Julea Claycomb — a two-year starter — stress there is a togetherness among the girls that comprise the squad.
“Where most teams don't, we actually hang out,” Claycomb said. “Even when the freshmen came out, we hung out with them, We make plans after practice or games. It's very important.”
“We hang out on the weekends, we went to boys (basketball) games together,” Porter added. “We're together a lot.”
While this season marked a strong move in the right direction, there appears to be the potential on the horizon for even greater accomplishments.
The team does lose five valuable seniors — Porter, Bethany Siebert, Alex Kitta, Mariah Bentz and Kaylee Tissue — but some key players will return. These include: Claycomb and fellow sophomore Brooke Cottom, junior Katrina Lauffer and freshman Olivia Porter.
Plus, there appears to be players rising through the ranks of the school district's youth programs who figure to contribute in the years to come.
“Hopefully, these kids see what's going on and (the returning players) continue to lead and the next group comes through and we can get this thing going to where nine wins isn't a good story, where we're not going to be satisfied with nine wins,” Pritts said. “We will be there again. That's got to be a goal of ours every year now. We've got to the point where we know we can compete with teams now we have to strive to make it. When we do I'm going to attribute it to these girls who were here from the start. I'm really proud of the girls this year.”
It's a sentiment with which Porter agrees.
“(Coach Pritts) said he's really happy we all stuck it out. There's been a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “We're proud of how far we've come.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.