Can losing lead to winning if most of the girls who suffered those losses come back for another crack at it?
Bordentown Regional High School girls’ basketball coach Bill Lloyd certainly hopes so.
The Scotties return all but one player from last year’s 9-16 team that went just 1-7 in the Burlington County Freedom Division. Included in that nucleus are junior Ciara Conover, the team’s leading scorer (8.2 points per game), senior co-captains Marissa Drew and Aja Reeves, and battle-tested sophomores Oshynn Cosom and Sofia Peterson.
All five saw substantial playing time while going through the bumps and bruises of a tough campaign, which Conover felt helped the team bond.
“It was definitely tough,” she said. “We had to push through and it was really hard. But when you all push through together it makes you stronger. We helped each other out.”
The co-captains admitted there were some tough times that needed to be navigated through that could pay dividends this year.
“It was a little hard, I’m not gonna lie,” Reeves said. “It’s hard to be confident and to be motivated to play again when you keep losing. But it also brought the team closer because we decided to just work with each other and be confident in our abilities and we never got mad at each other. We all worked together as a team.”
Drew agreed: “Last year we went through a lot of growing pains. We were young and learning how to play together. This year, we’re used to each other, we know our strengths and weaknesses, and we work harder together at practice and at games.”
What that adds up to remains to be seen. Lloyd is not going to make any bold predictions; but feels the potential is there for major improvement if the players work hard at it.
“I think success kind of breeds that bonding but failure can do that as well,” Lloyd said. “I’m not gonna say it did, I need to see how it plays out this year. But you would hope facing that adversity is gonna bring them together. They’ve been through the wars together.
“You hope that last year will help but it can’t be like, ‘Well, we’re gonna be better automatically because we’re all back this year.’ That’s part of the learning curve, especially for high school kids. A lot of times they step on the floor and expect success. They’ve gotta put the work in. For me as a coach, I have to make sure they continue to try and get better and not become complacent and happy just to be out there.”
Cosom will be a key figure at point guard after learning some valuable lessons last year.
“She’s still kind of going through some growing pains,” Lloyd said. “But we expect big things, and as she matures this season she’ll come into her own and really help us out.”
Conover will be the shooting guard, and Lloyd says she needs to prove herself at both ends of the court this year, while Peterson is on the wing and “just brings that toughness and tenacity you love in a player.”
Reeves and Drew will be the post players and their rebounding will be key in the early going until the Scotties can get into a shooting rhythm as a team.
“You hope they bring that leadership and they hit the boards hard,” Lloyd said after a preseason scrimmage with Hopewell Valley. “At the beginning of the season we’re having a hard time finishing because a lot of these girls play other sports in the fall, and a lot of them are getting back into the swing of it. It will take us three weeks to get them back into basketball shape and handling the basketball.”
Other girls in the rotation are senior Rachel Scranton and juniors Gillian Baker, Kenna Wojcik and Brianna Reed. Although Conover is the leading returning scorer, the coach noted she will not be the go-to girl. In fact, no one will be.
“Everybody’s gotta help,” Lloyd said. “I don’t think we can say there’s one person we have to count on every night. There will be nights Oshynn will hit a couple threes and be the hot hand, there will be nights Ciara hits a couple threes and she’s the hot hand. There will be nights they’ll be off but hopefully Marissa and Aja are down low and Sofia rebounds well too and they lead us in scoring.
“I think it will be all hands on deck. It’s not just one person who other teams will say ‘We need to shut her down and we’ll be all right.’”
Drew, whose father, Mark, is the former BRHS boys’ coach and was point guard on some Scottie powerhouse teams in the early 1980s, is feeling confident about the season.
“We all have talent and duties to the team,” she said. “We are definitely a lot better than last year. We work harder together at practice and in games. This season will be better and I have faith in all my teammates. I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Conover added that “we’re definitely more mature, we’re older and the chemistry is much better after we played together for a year.”
Reeves noted that getting knocked down continuously last year has helped the Scotties form a toughness and a desire not to let that happen again.
“We didn’t like our record last year so we’re gonna come back stronger this year,” she said. “We’re a lot more focused. We’re working together a lot as a team. We didn’t like having that record, making it look like we’re easy to beat. We’re trying to come back and fight harder and show that we have fight in us.”
Bordentown showed flashes of that on occasion last year. Lloyd pointed to the game in which his team took a good Burlington Township team into overtime before losing by five.
“It was one of those games where you say ‘See you have potential, you can do it, you can play with these good teams,’” the coach said. “It’s just a matter of putting it together consistently. That’s the thing we need. Not too high or too low, staying in that consistent break.”
So, will all this experience help?
“It should,” Lloyd said. “Any time you put two- and three-year players out there, they’re no longer the little kids on the court. You hope that in our division they’ll be able to hold their own.”
It should be interesting. And quite possibly, entertaining.