FHS, Triad girls hoopsters exceeded my expectations
The basketball season came to an end for a pair of local girls teams that achieved more than I originally expected of them.
The Fairbanks and Triad ladies packed up the jerseys for another winter after tournament losses within the last few days.
I’ll be honest with you, I was pretty concerned about these teams three months ago during the preseason.
The Lady Panthers were going to be without their top returning scorer, Logan Stidham, for approximately half of the campaign.
The Lady Cardinals were coming off a 2016-17 season that produced only four victories.
Both squads ended up as very pleasant surprises.
Granted, Fairbanks hobbled along early in the season, losing seven of its first 10 games.
Stidham returned to the lineup after the first of the year to give the Lady Panthers a scoring boost.
Once she returned, however, FHS had to withstand several injuries to other key players.
Despite that, the Lady Panthers won seven of nine games, which included a three-game winning streak as January gave way to February.
The season ended on Tuesday with a 14-point loss to Pleasant in the Division III tournament. That was far better than the 78-17 thrashing at the hands of the Lady Spartans to begin the season in late November.
The Lady Panthers’ 10 victories (in 23 games) were twice as many as I thought they might win.
Head coach Brock Oakes did a good job keeping the team together through a great deal of adversity.
Oakes even ran into the injury curse himself as he ruptured an Achilles tendon before the final regular season game against Mechanicsburg.
Oakes wasn’t the only one to turn in a solid coaching job.
Triad girls boss Jeff Merklin appears to be transforming the culture of the Lady Cardinals.
Triad tripled its number of victories from Merklin’s first season at the helm last year and finished with a 12-12 mark.
The initial campaign of any coaching regime can be difficult, as players and the coach learn about each other and try to connect as a group.
The Lady Cardinals succeeded with that this season as it was a total team effort that propelled them to their victories.
The only difficulty Merklin had this year was depth.
Triad played only a couple of JV games, as it was all Merklin could do to have enough bench strength for varsity games.
Hopefully, this winter’s non-losing season will spark more interest in the program during the years to come.
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