GIRLS’ BASKETBALL : THE FEROCIOUS FIVE
By BRANDON HURLEY
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Burning the midnight oil nearly took on a literal meaning as the opening tip of the season neared.
Instead of actual oil, though, the Greene County girls’ basketball team was hoisting up jumpers, running sprints and, get this, watching movies.
The Rams held their own rendition of “Midnight Madness” a few weeks ago, a new tradition head coach Dean Lyons was urged into by his ambitious senior class.
Lyons’ daughter, Laurin, who is a senior this winter, along with several of her classmates approached the coach with the unusual practice idea, and, admittedly, he was a little skeptical at first. But the coach was quickly persuaded, and the moment turned into a special evening for the team.
“I thought, you’re crazy,” Lyons said. “But, you know what, they wanted a team bonding thing, and we have 33 girls out and everyone of them were there.
The athletes wrapped up the night with a movie. The late evening activities really pulled the team closer, Lyons felt. With five players on the court at all times, they need to learn to work as a cohesive unit.
“It was really nice. They were all together,” the coach said. “It felt good and I think it helped our team out. Something different for team unity.
I had a lot of kids come and tell me they enjoyed it. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Change is the general theme as the Rams head into the teeth of the winter schedule.
Coach Lyons doesn’t shy away from the lack of success the Rams have endured over the past few years. Greene County has won just 15 games in the last three seasons (they were 4-18 a year ago) – and he knows his girls must develop a winning mentality to turn that around. To do that, the Rams must replace 18 points per game scoring which was provided by departed seniors Kenna Marquardt, Taylor Promes and Taylor Wessling.
Coach Lyons wants his girls to rely on defense in the early going, by pushing the tempo and switching up his schemes. The Rams will deploy several different defensive fronts in an attempt to leave their opponents discombobulated.
“We are going to mix a lot up, change some things. We’ll make the other team think,” Lyons said. “We’ll throw in some half court trap. We’ve been working since day one, because we have the quick girls up front and maybe we’ll get some quick buckets off that.
It’s a little bit different. Hopefully, we can force some turnovers that way.”
Last year, the Rams often were run out of the gym, falling behind quickly thanks to swarming full court presses and offenses that liked to get out in the open court. Greene County was a step behind when it came to speed, and that’s something Lyons hopes to flip this year. They want to be the agressor.
“Last year, we had some injuries, we had a little bit of everything and people just ran us into the ground. We didn’t have the bench. This year, we are quicker,” Lyons said. “We have a saying that we started in the fifth grade, ‘be the hammer, not the nail.’ We want to be the one that run the people into the ground, the one that is most aggressive and I think the girls have bought into that.”
The veteran core of Laurin Lyons, Samantha Hardaway, Onica Delp, Ashley Millard and Regan Lamoureux has been together for nearly 10 years with coach Lyons along for the ride, coaching traveling teams and leading them at the middle school level. He has a deep talent pool at his disposal, which is something he has rarely had at the helm in Jefferson.
“I feel like we have a lot of girls that we can rely on this year to step up and help the team,” Lyons said. “This team feels a little different.
They’ve been around each other so long and they know what I expect from them.”
This winter will be Lyons’ third year as head coach, after having spent time in Pomeroy, Paton-Churdan and East Greene. He coached junior high for two years prior, while another year as a varsity assistant.
Lyons’ daughter, Laurin, is the last of the Lyons children to play for their father. While its something he’s enjoyed, Dean did admit there are some challenges that arise when coaching family, especially at the varsity level.
“The toughest thing I’ve learned, there are two of them. The first, when the game is over, you have to leave it, you can’t take it home. I’ve been told that by my kids numerous times,” the elder Lyons said. “The second toughest (thing), let’s be honest, your kids take a beating from the public at times and other kids because you are the coach’s kid. It’s tough, but they’ve adapted really well to it and kind of let it go in one ear and out the other.
I love coaching my kids, it’s a great opportunity to be with them and I wouldn’t trade it for (anything).”
Laurin led the Rams in scoring (8.3 PPG), rebounding (5.5 RPG) and passing (3 APG) for the second straight year last winter and poured in 16 points in the Rams’ season-opening win against Ogden Monday, Nov. 27. She’ll be the focal point of a Rams squad that looks to build off her success.
“She’s been around the gym all her life. She grew up with me coaching boys then girls,” coach Lyons said. “She brings experience, toughness and leadership to the team. We will rely on her a lot. We’d like her to have, realistically, around 15 to 20 points a game.”
Tenth-ranked Nevada once again will be the cream of the crop in the Heart of Iowa Conference. The Cubs have won 37 straight HOIC games, stringing together back-to-back perfect league records and four straight conference titles.
Lexy Koudelka, a Division I recruit who signed to play basketball at Illinois State earlier this month, led the conference in scoring (19.4 PPG), rebounding (13.3 RPG) and field goal percentage (60 %) while she was second in blocks (3.5 BPG).
Taking down the champ will be a tall task for anyone this winter, Lyons said. The Cubs were 22-2 a year ago with yet another state tournament trip punched.
“There’s no doubt about it, until they get beat, it’s Nevada,” Lyons said. “They still have (Lexy) and she’s going to be really tough. After that, there’s quite a drop off.”
The coach feels another veteran squad to the northeast ranked in the top 10 who could make a run to make it interesting this time around.
“A team to watch this year will be Roland-Story,” Lyons said. “They bring back everybody and they’ve got some younger kids. They’ve got shooters.”
The Rams started the year 2-1 and travel to Saydel, Dec. 7 after a six-day lay-off.
The 3A regional tournament begins Feb. 10 with the state tournament set for Feb. 26 through March 3 at Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines.