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Lady Wolverines making strides forwardPosted Wednesday, December 7, 2011, at 11:19 AM
SWITZ CITY -- Just over a year ago the White River Valley Lady Wolverines basketball team got a new head coach and a began a rebuilding process.
For former Indiana All-Star A.J. Graves the task at hand was one that would be filled with stumbling blocks the first year.
But now that the first year has passed, the Lady Wolverines appear to be headed in the right direction.
On Dec. 6 of last year the Lady Wolverines paid a visit to Bicknell and the North Knox Lady Warriors.
When the visit was over WRV had not been anything resembling competitive in a 62-21 loss -- but what a difference a year made.
On Monday of this week I watched basically the same Lady Wolverines show how far they've progressed since that night a season ago when they appeared to be at the least overmatched by North Knox.
"We're starting to play with teams that last year we had no business playing," Graves told me. "This just goes to show how far the girls have grown not only from experience but also skill wise."
Graves has progressively increased the knowledge base of the young team and has decided to head full steam ahead -- and he says the results are paying dividends.
"They're starting to come together as a team," he said. "They're starting to help each other out and communicating with one another."
Monday's contest turned out to be a case of winning the battle but losing the war. They led for the majority of the game only to see the lead evaporate late in the closing stages before ultimately losing 48-44.
While it was still a loss in the books, the game showcased how much each individual player has grown and started to learn how to be a part of a team.
"I think this is the first game we've had this year where every girl came ready to play," he said. "They've lived up to their role, they knew what they were supposed to do and they helped one another."
It's also been a visible change as well as a mental change among the members of the squad. They've not only started showing progress in technical areas, but they've began to understand the game.
Beyond that major stride, they still have to learn how to finish games, something that only comes with the experience earned by leading down the stretch of a game.
On Monday night the biggest setback the team faced was seeing an opponent mount a comeback against them -- something that admittedly by Graves -- shook their confidence a little.
"When a team comes back at you they deflate you, they really do," Graves said. "That's when a team has to pull together, you have to encourage one another and go back to what got you there."
Graves knows that ability to rebound on the fly will come with time and more opportunities to be in the same situation over and over again.
"I full faith in this team that we'll continue to do well in situations like this," he said.
With the growing aspect of the team well into the next stage of development, there's another component -- Graves himself.
He's entered his second season and has made some positive changes himself and he's admittedly gone through a learning phase that's ready to move to the next level.
"That's a two-way street," he said. "I haven't been in coaching situations like this where the pressure's on me to call the right play and set up the play that puts us up one or ties the game."
When he self-assessed, Graves says he's comfortable with where he is and where he's headed -- he's also happy with the direction the team is going and believes the prospects are good for a continued improvement.
"I think that this team is really starting to grow and that it's becoming obvious to the people that come to the games," Graves said. "Just because we've came this far, doesn't mean we're satisfied.
"We want to win these games."
And that's just around the corner, in my mind at least.
Rick is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487 ext. 20. He can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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