HEBRON ESTATES - Some basketball teams can win 20 games in a season and end up being disappointed at the end.
Other teams can post win totals that require just one digit and end the season feeling like they accomplished something.
Put the North Bullitt Lady Eagles in the second group.
The 2009-2010 season was not expected to be a banner season for the Lady Eagles and it really wasn’t as the team posted a 7-19 record and lost to Southern in the first game of the 24th District Tournament. However, the green and gold accomplished a great deal and learned even more that can be carried over into future seasons.
When the season began, the program had a first-year coach in Amber Courtney and the roster showed just two seniors (one playing for the first time) and only one junior. Even at the end of the season, when the team dressed just eight players for the district tournament, only two of those players had ever played in the post-season before. Three of those eight players are still in middle school.
Courtney was still smiling at the end of the season.
“I did have fun,” the former Bullitt Central standout said.
“I knew it was going to be rough,” Courtney admitted recently. “I would like to have won some more games or be more productive, but there were no surprises.”
The bottom line is that Courtney is looking to build a program and wasn’t looking for any quick fixes.
“We improved from done one to the last day,” the coach pointed out. “Even losing to Southern at the end like we did, the team did improve.”
Courtney pointed to a 50-45 win over Sixth Region rival Pleasure Ridge Park as a highlight to the season. The Lady Panthers would go on to reach the regional tournament. The other six wins all come against much smaller schools.
The low point? The 49-32 loss at the end of the season to Southern. North Bullitt had scored over 90 points in two of its previous three games, but then scored just nine points in the first half of the last game to the Lady Trojans.
“I feel like Southern was the low end,” Courtney said. “We should have impressed more on the kids the importance of one game in the post-season. It’s hard to make young kids understand it is the last game.”
It was a long season for the Lady Eagles but even a longer season for the three middle schoolers who started playing competitive basketball back in September.
“I don’t know if they were tired, but they have not stopped,” the coach said. “They are still pretty gung-ho. I don’t think fatigue or tiredness was part of it.”
The two seniors made major contributions this season. Bre Kuffner was the most experienced returning player when the season began and she came through as the leading scorer and team leader for the Lady Eagles this winter. Kuffner ended up averaging 14 points a contest.
The other senior was Meri Brian. A track standout at North Bullitt, Brian was recruited to help the basketball team despite the fact that she had not played the game competitively before at the high school level. By the end of the season she was making key contributions.
“Meri was our most improved player on the varsity,” Courtney said. “We sort of begged her to ply. I was looking to get more people. She ended up being a major factor for us from Christmas on.”
Because so many of the younger girls were playing with the varsity, the program did not play a lot of games at the younger levels. In fact, the junior-varsity played fewer than ten games, but did record one victory over Bullitt Central. The freshman team posted just a 1-3 record.
To improve the number of games at the junior-varsity level, Courtney is going to cut down on some of the varsity doubleheaders with the boys in the future.
Still, with so many returning players, the Lady Eagles expect to be better next season.
“The future will look bright,” Courtney said. “If I can keep the whole group together and if they do what it takes to get better then we’ll be competitive in the future.”
Courtney has already completed her schedule for next season. The holiday highlight will be the return of the First Citizens Bank Classic the week before Christmas. That event will return to an eight-team, bracket format next winter from the four-team event it was this season.
North Bullitt will hold open gyms and weightlifting this spring. In June, the squad will take part in Shoot-outs at Bullitt East and Campbellsville. A new event will have Courtney conducting a youth camp at the school June 7-10 in the mornings.