Ending the season 9-3 and winning a couple of tournaments, the seventh-grade girls’ basketball team at Kokomo had a successful season, according to Head Coach Stacey Pollard.
Losing only to talented Noblesville, Tipton, and Hamilton Heights teams, Pollard said he was proud of how his team performed. Last year’s seventh-grade team went 8-2, losing to Marion and Northwestern. Since this year’s team came back and defeated both of those big rivals, Pollard said it was a good boost for the girls.
“This year was kind of our 'revenge' year. When I say revenge, I mean the team that we got beat by last year we wanted to come back this year and take care of business this year. I think we done that with beating Northwestern in the county championship and also coming back and beating Marion the second game of the season,” Pollard said.
According to Pollard, defeating Marion was a big highlight of the season. Last year, the seventh-grade Lady Kats fell short to the Lady Giants by four points, but this year’s team came out on top by 20-plus on the final score. A few of the players on Kokomo’s team were originally from Marion, so the win was particularly special to some of the girls, Pollard said.
Additionally, another highlight of the season according to Pollard was winning the Eastern invitational. After suffering three consecutive losses on the season, the Lady Kats team was able to come back and take the title. Following the invitational victory, the girls turned around and took the county title to end their season.
“I think that was kind of a confidence builder,” Pollard said.
With 13 girls on the team, Pollard said the coaches had every player a team would need, including a quick guard who was able to get to the bucket, a shooter who was able to shoot above 45 percent when typically the seventh-grade average is 30 percent, hard defensive players, a large post presence, and big energy from the bench.
With players at this age, Pollard said teaching fundamentals of the sport is still a big part of practices. Around 30 minutes of each practice was dedicated to improving ball-handling and pivoting skills, as well as learning different terminology of the game such as curls, cuts, and backscreens.
When asked what he thought the team improved on overall, Pollard said understanding what each player’s role was in their position on the court.
“Understanding that if you’re our guard, our guard is supposed to set up our offense and get people in involved, understanding that if you’re not a decent shooter and you need to get to the bucket. I didn’t tell girls, and I never tell girls or any of the other teams, that I coach that kids can’t shoot because then it doesn’t allow them to progress in that area. Everyone has a green light. But, they have to understand a good shot and a great shot. I think they started to understand that,” Pollard said.
When asked what the most challenging part of coaching student-athletes at the seventh-grade level was, Pollard said it was keeping the players focused for an hour-and-a-half practice, learning to take accountability for their actions, and trying to get all the girls to “mesh” together. Since the team was made up of three different middle schools, some of the players didn’t know each other, Pollard said. This led some of the players to become “stand-offish” initially, but after breaking the ice with some music at practice, the girls eventually began to mingle more with each other, according to Pollard.
Pollard thanked Assistant Coach Kennedy Curl for her help this season and the Kokomo parents and athletic department for supporting him.