Mounties hope return of experience will lead to improvement
November 6, 2019
NEW MARKET — Coming off a 6-16 season, Southmont girls’ basketball enters the 2019-20 campaign with all the right pieces, now it’s just a matter of putting them together to form a winning culture.
“We are excited,” Southmont coach Dustin Oakley said as he enters his fourth year at the helm. “The juniors and seniors both. The seniors have been here since I’ve been here. The four years there’s some really good improvement we see, and their practice habits are coming along in what they do.”
The Mounties lost only two players to graduation, including their leading scorer and rebounder in Lilly Ward (11.4 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game). Sophomore Belle Miller, and juniors Addi Charles and Natalie Manion all return as players who scored at least six points per game a season ago, but Oakley knows it’s going to take a team effort to improve their 41 points per game offensive average.
Addi Charles returns for her junior season for the Mounties.
“Belle, Addi, and Nat all had six apiece,” he said. “They’re going to produce, but it’s going to have to come from everybody. I think every single night it’s going to be can we get our guards to produce 20-25 together, and our bigs 20-25. I don’t think it’s going to be one person necessarily that’s our go-to. And I don’t want it t be that way. I want us to all share the basketball and be aggressive and look to attack, and I really think they have that mindset of moving the ball and sharing the ball.”
The senior class also returns Claire Remley, Emma Ward, and Bailey and Hannah Thompson, who all played significant minutes as juniors. Junior Sidney Veatch is also expected to contribute as a regular after missing her sophomore season due to a back injury.
Defense Lives Here
With no definitive solution to their scoring woes, Oakley knows defense will be a vital key to Southmont’s success.
“It’s always been defense. I’m not going to change,” he said. “My first couple of years we gave up about 44, and last year 52, and that’s just not anything I want to be a part of. We just aren’t going to score that much. If we are going to give up 50-55 points, we aren’t going to win. That’s been our focus since the summer, and the first couple of weeks here.”
Oakley feels like they often lacked toughness last year, and gave up after falling behind in games.
“Just overall toughness,” he said. “We backed down a lot last year. I hope that mentality changes this year.”
Building A Winning Culture
All seven returning players plus Veatch have won a sectional either last spring in softball or this fall in golf, soccer, or volleyball, and the desire to be successful is something the Mounties hope to see carry over to basketball.
“They just want to be successful,” Oakley said. “You saw it during the fall stuff, and I think that just carries over to us. I think we have the best athletes in the school right now in our program, and it’s going to be the next few years to get this thing done, and I think we have the right group of girls to do it.”
Despite winning a county title last season, Oakley hopes to see Southmont improve in the win column, and ultimately be playing their best basketball at the end of the season.
“We want a winning conference record, play our best basketball, and win a sectional title,” he said. “That’s the main goal here.”
After reclassification, the Mounties are back in Class 2A, and will play in the Cloverdale sectional. A fourth girls sectional title this school year will be within reach come February if the Mounties can come together.
“Both of those groups they are going to have to lead us,” Oakley said of the juniors and seniors. “And that’s what I saw in going to all of their sporting events in volleyball, and golf, and soccer. I mean you could just see where everybody fits in and blends together. We have the pieces to have a winning program here. Do our girls want to blend and kind of accept their role on this team. And if they accept those roles and responsibilities we will be fine.”
Southmont opens the regular season at Tri-West on Thursday, before opening their home slate against Clinton Central on Saturday.