CAMDEN — “That’s the most improved team I’ve ever seen,” Preble Shawnee girls’ basketball coach, Kevin Schaeffer said after his team’s 61-56 loss to Miami Valley on Monday evening.
“This is like the third game where a coach has given us glowing compliments after a game; talking about how we’re on the up and up, how we’re playing better. And I told them in there, “It’s all well and good; we’re getting compliments from teams that used to whip us,”” Schaeffer said. “But I’m tired of getting compliments from coaches and losing.”
The Arrows (1-4, 1-2 Southwestern Buckeye League) fought for the entire game against a very tough Miami Valley team.
The Rams are one of the toughest opponents Preble Shawnee will face all season, coming off of a near upset against Ohio’s top team, Carroll, they looked to dominate Shawnee once again. Last season, Miami Valley beat Shawnee by 31 points, 68-37.
That was not the case.
The Arrows gave them everything they could handle for 29 minutes. However, it was a four-minute stretch late in the second quarter and early in the third it ultimately decided the game.
A 14-0 run by the Rams opened things up at half after being tied at 21.
“It was gut-check time,” Schaeffer said of the third quarter. “We came out at halftime and looked like whipped puppies because they went on a run at the end of the half. I pulled them back in the hallway and said, ‘We got to dig girls. You want to get beat by 40; that’s you guys. But, I don’t see it. You guys go out there and make this a ballgame.’ And that’s what they did.”
The second half the team woke back up and was led by the two emerging sophomore stars, Nicole Sims and Brenna Woodard.
Woodard had her best night, shooting 9-of-14 from the field and 2-of-4 from deep, on her way to a team-leading, 20-point game. She added four rebounds and a steal during her attempt to bring the Arrows back. Her biggest points came after a fourth quarter steal that led her to a layup moments later; it pulled Shawnee within three, 54-51.
Sims hit another big three late. After Miami Valley had made use of a three-point play on a layup and foul, the Arrows trailed by seven again. With only two seconds left, Sims drilled a three with pressure in her face. It was 60-56 with only 1.5 remaining.
Sims finished the night shooting 5-for-8 from the field, 2-for-4 from deep, with 16 points as she had her best night from the free throw line, going 4-for-7.
Schaeffer has harped on the fact the team looks ideal for the majority of the time, but has one bad segment that has spoiled every game.
“It seems like I sound like a broken record,” Schaeffer said. “But it is what it is. Miami Valley could be the best team we play all year, and we let them go on a 14-0 run, and that was the difference. What can I say? I’m proud of them. After that we three minutes, we settled in and did what we were supposed to do.”
The Arrows forced the Rams against the wall late. It was a furious effort on defense that forced four big turnovers that led to the late run. The Arrows came back from 54-45 with 3:30 left to only three points in the final minute.
“They went into stall mode,” Schaeffer said. “To me, that means a good team like Miami Valley, that shows me they were kind of fearful of us.”
The toughest part of the season appears to be winding down for Shawnee. Carlisle and Miami Valley are both 5-1 out of the gate. Badin is 3-2, despite a tough stretch to open the year. With another tough one coming up on Thursday against Waynesville (another 5-1 team), the team has looked good despite a tough start to the season.
“Shouldn’t be a doubt in our minds we can play and beat anybody that we run out there,” Schaeffer said. “The question is, is whether or not the girls will buy into that? They should. We gave them that same speech in there. ‘You’re the same girls; you step on the volleyball court, you expect to win. You step on the soccer field; you expect to win. There’s no reason why, when you step on the basketball court, you don’t have that same mentality.’ And I swear that’s the only difference between us being 4-1, 5-0, and being 1-4.”
It’s a battle of high expectations and maintaining the youth and inexperience he’s dealing with. Schaeffer contends that things will eventually click and he remains excited to see the team grow.
Looking forward to Waynesville, the team seems to gain momentum in what amounts to another pivotal game.
“I told them that it’s going to be similar to that (Monday’s game against Miami Valley). Very similar players. They run pretty small; they’re guard-oriented; we’re guard oriented,” Schaeffer said. “With Nicole (Sims) and now Brenna (Woodard) really stepping up, with those two girls in the backcourt, we can handle any type of pressure teams throw at us. Now the catch is going to be, can we limit their big-time scorer?”
“It’ll be very similar if we play for 32 minutes like we did for 28 or 29 tonight, it’s going to be a very good ballgame.”
Shawnee and Waynesville were scheduled to play Thursday night at Preble Shawnee. It was to be the Arrows’ final home game after six straight to start 2016-17.