March 6, 2014 | Vol. 117 -- No. 46

Lady Hawks off-season focus to be on ball-handling

Cheney High girls basketball head coach Shannon Root learned a few things about her team, and something about herself in her first season as the Lady Hawks varsity head coach.

Cheney finished 2013-2014 with a 5-15 record overall, 3-9 in Great Northern League play, making the post-season as the sixth seed and losing in the first round of the league playoffs to Clarkston, 71-49. None of the Lady Hawks games was closer than nine points, in either column, but, with only a few exceptions, Root doesn’t feel her team was blown out in those 15 losses.

“More like whittled away,” she said. What often proved to be the Lady Hawks demise were short 6-8 point scoring runs the team wasn’t able to counter effectively with similar outbursts.

Root believes one solution is to become more guard focused by working on ball-handling skills in the off-season and during summer league play. The Lady Hawks had trouble getting the ball up the court at times, often relying on one person to take care of the task.

Bettering their ball-handling skills will result in more players capable of bringing the ball up, and help eliminate turnovers once into their offense. That focuses a lot on the guards, but post players need to improve their skills too, Root said.

“We’re just going to focus a lot on fundamentals,” she added.

Another key to more wins is better inside scoring, and the road to this for the post players is to hit the off-season weight room. Root said her inside players need to be more physical than technical, working on strength to help them get into a “jumping routine” to combat a deficiency in another area — height.

“We’re still not tall, so we need to pretend,” she said.

The Lady Hawks will work on these aspects of their game this summer through their regular team camp in June, along with competing in a couple summer leagues at Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Root hasn’t ruled out a third summer league with Greater Spokane League schools, but knows her athletes also participate in other sports off-season activities and doesn’t want them to pick one over the other.

“As long as they’re doing something athletic,” she said.

While the Lady Hawks have a lot to work on, Root is happy with how her team met their challenges this past season, working hard to improve each day in practice and battling on the court to the final whistle during games. She attributes this to the strong, positive relationship between the players, something she expects to carry forward.

“Our camaraderie will be huge next year, like it was this year,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade my girls for anything.”

As for herself, the biggest thing Root said she learned can be summed up in one word – logistics.

“There’s a lot of preparation involved in winning,” she said. “More than I anticipated.”

Coaching requires being able to hold solid practices, provide individual instruction, scout other teams, prepare game plans and manage games. As the person at the helm of the Lady Hawks program, Root said she had a lot more administrative stuff to do as well — like ordering jerseys for the teams — along with coaching her own squad and working with assistants on theirs.

“I want everybody in our program to feel supported,” she said. “Everybody works together.”

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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