Headed into the season, the goal for second-year head coach Donna Polk and the Indian River High School girls’ basketball team was simple: Be better than they were last year.
Even after dropping their last game of the season 38-20 to Laurel on Thursday, Feb. 16, that was still a goal that the Indians would accomplish, doubling their win total from 2015-2016 and finishing 10-10 — their best record since 2013.
“We’ve definitely improved. We’re getting better,” said Polk. “This year, I thought we started off really well, with them understanding the expectations a little bit more.”
After going back and forth with the Bulldogs during the first half of last Thursday’s game and eventually trailing 20-16 headed into the break, the Indians would struggle with the scoring in half No. 2.
That’s where Laurel would continue to press the offense behind sophomore guard Logan Handy, who finished with a game-high 19 points on the night.
“They applied some pressure on our guards, and then we fell apart. We never got into our offense,” said Polk of the second half. “Logan [Handy] — she’s a great player. We were trying to make it difficult for her. We didn’t want her getting set shots.”
The Indians were led offensively with nine points from sophomore center Julia Jordan, five points from junior guard Fabrea McCray, four points from senior forward Maggie Ford and two points from junior forward Braydee Whitman.
Before the game, the team said goodbye to Ford and senior guard Madi McGee with a Senior Night ceremony on the court. That’s where the two announced (in jest) their plans of joining the circus after graduating in the spring.
“It was a little sad, but fun,” said McGee of the night’s festivities.
“It was really fun,” added Ford with a laugh. “We’re excited to go into the circus.”
All jokes aside, the senior co-captains were encouraged with the program’s turnaround and most successful season since McGee joined the team as a sophomore in 2014 and Ford as a freshman in 2013, when they finished 6-14 while sporting only eight players on the roster.
“We’ve really come a long way. Since I was a freshman, we’ve always been on the losing side of things, but now we’re coming up.” said Ford. “I think Coach Polk has brought more discipline.”
“She expects a lot from us,” McGee added of Polk’s influence on the team.
The seniors were also encouraged by the commitment of some of their underclass teammates, as well as the growing support shown from the community.
“You can tell the freshmen have got a lot of heart. They’re excited to play,” said Ford. “After this year, I think we’ll get some more girls to try out. Hopefully, this will bring out some more support. We definitely had more fans this year than ever.”
Headed into year three along with assistant coaches Brittany Hazzard and Paul Weisengoff, Polk said she is ready to push the program even further in 2017-2018, and ready to be better than they were this season, next season.
“Next year, we’ll try and focus on the younger players and try to bring them along,” she said. “We’re trying to find somebody to take ownership of wanting to lead the team. It’s just now a matter of being able to put it all together and execute.”
Game stats vs. Laurel
Points: J. Jordan (9), F. McCray (5), M. Ford (4),
B. Whitman (2)