While there wasn’t nearly as much pressure on this year’s team to win, particularly after losing four pivotal players to graduation, the Lady Indians’ 0-5 start to the 2012-13 campaign is a big surprise from a unit that didn’t suffer a loss the year before.
“I knew the first couple of games on our schedule would be tough,” said McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur, whose team has already played nationally ranked Norcross and Hall (Ark.), as well as returning state playoff teams Alpharetta and North Cobb.
“I felt like we would be in this position — just not 0-5. I thought we could get at least one win already, but everything takes time. The girls are starting to learn to play together and starting to enjoy what they’re doing.”
Last year, Arthur primarily used a seven-player rotation that included seniors Pachyiaanna Roberts, Destinie Gibbs, Dominique Wilson and Kayla Montgomery, juniors Mia Cooper and Joclyn Ramos and freshman Te’a Cooper.
Roberts (Syracuse), Gibbs (Southern Cal), Wilson (Arkansas) and Montgomery (Clemson) are all playing collegiately, and Ramos is out with an ACL injury she suffered over the summer, leaving the Cooper sisters as the lone returnees with substantial playing experience.
“Really, only three of our girls — Mia, Te’a and Joclyn — played a lot last year,” Arthur said. “The other girls were role players who filled in when we needed them to, so this is kind of like a whole new team. They’re a talented and young team, but it’s really their first time playing together.
“And with Joclyn out for the time being, it makes things even tougher for the girls to come together. We have a lot of individual talent, but once we come together collectively as a unit, we’ll be all right.”
One of McEachern’s five losses was a 59-47 setback Tuesday at North Cobb, in the Region 4AAAAAA opener for both teams.
Though his team picked up a double-digit victory, North Cobb coach Matt Williams isn’t too concerned about McEachern’s slow start and feels like the Lady Indians still be a factor in the hunt for the region championship.
“They’re a great team, and they’ll be fine,” Williams said. “They played a difficult schedule early on that put them in a tough position. They have enough talent there, and it’s hard to replace the girls that they lost, but they’ll be one of the teams to contend with in the end.”
In order to help her team adjust to its new personnel, Arthur has recently stressed fundamentals and slowing things down during practice. So far, her starting lineups have included a mix of the Cooper sisters, freshmen Jada Lewis and Elizabeth Allen and juniors Declaria Daniels and Klintisha Martin.
“We’re going back to ‘Basketball 101,’” Arthur said. “We went too fast in teaching these girls, so we’re back to simplifying things and makings sure everyone understands. It’s important for us to understand, it’s where we finish, not where we are.”
That’s one of the reasons why Arthur isn’t too concerned about her team’s 0-5 start. The Lady Indians could go winless for the entire regular season, but still win in the region tournament when it matters most.
“It’s about being one of those top four teams at the end,” she said. “We’re going to be OK. We hope to have Ramos back, and the other girls are starting to jell.”