“Coach, I’m low and I’m moving my feet. What happened?” a player will ask head coach Monica Williams. Williams is teaching the Winchester Thurston girls to run man-to-man defense.
“You were just about two steps behind,” Williams will sometimes respond. Speed standards are high in Section 4-A.
Winchester Thurston is the team that’s chasing strong Serra Catholic in Section 4-A. The Bears are at 6-3 (3-1), and they play section-top Monessen tonight. It’s a good time for the Bears to have this big game.
“Right now our team is finally starting to do a little gelling,” says Williams. “Each player has particular talents that stand out.” Freshman guard Lexi LoNero is an excellent shooter, but she’s got to get it together on defense,” explains Williams “She’s averaging 12 points a game.”
Williams also notes the abilities of junior point guard Brytney Humpries. “She’s an all around player,” says Williams. Humpries is a great dribbler. She has 24 rebounds on the season, which puts her at an average of two rebounds per game. At a height of 5’5”, Humpries may be smaller than a lot of WPIAL players. But she doesn’t let it stop her.
“Emily Onorato is my only senior,” Williams continues. A guard, Onorato exhibits skills much like those of Humpries. Williams notes that Onorato also gets the Bears a lot of rebounds and blocks. Her height is 5’7”.
Inside, Winchester Thurston relies on players like sophomore forwards Shala Barngy and Alley Seigel. At 5’10” and 5’9” respectively, these two grab a lot of rebounds.
Williams is pleased with her team and the progress they’ve made. Last year, Winchester Thurston had a team of all freshmen and only two upperclassmen. This year, they are staying competitive in Section 4-A with some experience under their belts. The 2011-12 season has brought one additional resource to the Bears: Carlita Evans.
Maiden named Carlita DeJones, Evans was the girls’ head coach at Peabody High School before it became closed. Now, Evans works with the forwards at Winchester Thurston. “She’s doing an exceptional job,” says Williams.
Brandi Harris is still coaching as Williams’s first assistant. Harris has worked with Williams with for 6 years. A key contribution of Harris’ is guard play – Harris works to specialize and challenge the Bears’ guards. Harris played her high school basketball at North Allegheny. In college, Harris played for Villanova and then Towson State after transferring from Villanova.
The truth is that Winchester Thurston has a tough slate in a tough section. After Wilkinsburg (the Tigers won, 46-43), the Bears played their Section 4-A chaser California for a 66-44 win. These games bring Winchester Thurston to tonight’s contest with Monessen.
“We do actually get ready for the opponent we play,” explains Williams. “We watch film or go to the game.” While one coach is helping a team through a game, another coach will scout future opponents. For Winchester Thurston’s game with Wilkinsburg, Williams knew that her team would have to be ready for a very aggressive style. For Monessen, Williams is emphasizing a defense that can withstand speed and athleticism.
“My major pet peeve is the fact that we just have to play defense,” Williams says. In a January 2 59-44 win over Frazier, Williams felt that her team allowed the opposition to remain in the game longer than they should have. The fortunate thing is that the Bears are eager.
“My girls – they are like sponges,” says Williams. They listen to everything you say. This is the first year I made them starting playing man-to-man defense. They didn’t think they were going to be able to do it that because they weren’t sure they were fast enough.”
Williams knows how to work with her team, however. “We do a lot of defensive sliding drills,” she says. The team now has two agility ladders, and they do their drills wearing ankle weights. Williams explains that this is an effective way to improve players’ movement and get their feet together.
Some new pads are being used to emphasize a more physical offense for Winchester Thurston. Williams wants her players to learn to draw fouls while shooting to stretch baskets into three-point plays. Overall, it’s part of a program-wide effort to make everybody tougher.
Winchester Thurston’s game with Monessen tips off at 7:30pm.