Hoops season is officially underway for the White Pine girls’ team this winter.
For second-year, Head Coach Heather Hamilton said being more enduring is what she is taking away from a rookie season. She led the Ladycats to 7-16 overall record and a 7-9 record in league play that saw her team win three of the final four regular season games.
“I think I’ve learned to be patient,” Hamilton said as year two is underway. “We (have) very few girls trying out, so just being patient, taking athletes and watching them grow, teaching them the fundamentals and hopefully being able get (players from) the middle school. We help with our Junior Jazz to start building those fundamentals early.”
In Hamilton’s first season, she was also able to lead White Pine to a playoff berth, securing the No. 6 seed, despite losing their lone postseason matchup to the three-seeded Meadows School Mustangs.
Before 2A South action got underway on Dec. 8 at Needles, White Pine began its season with the 2A/3A Challenge where the Ladycats faced three teams from the 3A Division in Pahrump Valley, Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley.
Although the team lost to each of those three opponents, Hamilton said playing three teams in a higher division gives them the learning guide they need to prepare themselves for league play.
“I think they help us tremendously because when you play a bigger school, especially these three teams, you’re playing higher skill levels,” Hamilton said. “And I think that if you play up, it makes you better. So we appreciate that tournament so much because we play those three teams, whereas going to play 1A teams, I think it would only digress us.”
Thus far, White Pine has played two road games in league play, losing to Needles 57-12, and defeating Laughlin 51-14.
Against Laughlin, White Pine was able to get production from freshman Brenley Skadburg, who recorded a near triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and eight steals in a 51-14 win. In addition, eight of her nine rebounds were on the offensive glass.
Mixing in the freshman with the returning players has so far been one of the challenges for this White Pine team early in the season.
“A lot of freshmen and new players that came from playing middle school basketball, to varsity-level basketball,” Hamilton said. “So, it was definitely a huge change for them. But I think that these are coachable players and I think that each day at practice we got better and then each time we played another game, we got better.”
In the 37-point win over the Cougars, White Pine’s second scorer was senior guard Mallory Thompson, who put up 11 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Hamilton wants Thompson to take advantage of her experience to lead this team to victory this season.
“Just in the three games that we played, she’s really stepped up,” Hamilton said of Thompson, who is one of the team’s only two seniors. “I don’t see any quit in her and I only see her progressing through the season. So, as coaches, we’re fighting for her.”
Thompson, who also plays soccer and softball, has had a slow start scoring, averaging 4.4 points per game but has been doing other things to help her team out. The senior guard is averaging six rebounds and four steals per game, highlighted by her six-steal performance against Moapa Valley.
In addition, in four of her first five games, Thompson has recorded at least six rebounds, including grabbing eight boards against Virgin Valley.
This week, the Ladycats have three games beginning on Dec. 12 at Lincoln County at 6 p.m. before a couple of home matchups against Lake Mead Academy on Dec. 15 at 5:30 p.m. and Green Valley Christian on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m.
As this second season continues to progress for Hamilton, she cannot wait to see the team’s identity and chemistry come together, especially for Thompson as well as the next wave of freshmen and sophomores on the team.
“I’m just really excited for this season,” she said. “I think that we’re still building, being a second-year head coach. I think I’m still building my program. I’m just excited to see where these younger girls end up.”