Earlier this year Lady Miners head basketball Coach Joshua Harrison gave each girl on his basketball team one piece of a puzzle. As his team looked at him with confusion, Harrison explained how it would all make sense in the end.
“We all are individuals, we all have unique and different skills, but when we come together and we lock those pieces together, we can make up a very strong team,” Harrison said.
With a new basketball season on the horizon, Harrison is hoping this visual motivates his team.
Last season, Bauxite was eliminated by the eventual 4A State Champion Star City Bulldogs in the 4A Regional Tournament. The Miners finished its season with a 19-12 overall record.
Bauxite finished third in 4A Region 7 play, but struggled mightily and was winless against Pulaski Academy and Malvern – two teams that finished ahead of Bauxite in the standings.
“To compete with a team like Malvern, we just have to learn to be a lot more physical,” Harrison said. “We have to do a better job of keeping them off the boards and attack them as much as they attack us.”
Despite the struggles against the powerhouses of Region 7, Bauxite did have success both in and out of conference play. From Nov. 28 through Dec. 16, the Miners recorded a season-high seven-game winning streak.
During that time, Bauxite averaged 57 points per contest and outscored its opponents by a combined total of 399-306. As a team, Bauxite had the third highest scoring offense in the conference.
Bauxite finished the year scoring a total of 1,613 points, with Mary Crow contributing a substantial part of that offense. The dynamic guard accounted for 566 of those points, which translated into 35 percent of the Miner’s scoring.
Crow, a four-year starter and highly respected point guard in Region 7, will have all eyes on her yet again this season – and for good reason.
There isn’t much the 5-8 senior hasn’t done in her time as guard of the Miners. So far in her illustrious career, Crow has been named an All-Conference player three times and an All-State player twice.
“Mary is definitely a leader by the way she plays and the effort she gives every day,” Harrison said. “Everybody feeds off her. She definitely leads by example.”
Crow had her best season as a Miner last year as she led the conference in scoring (18.9 ppg), steals (3.7 spg) and free throws made (153). Moreover, Crow’s dominance as a Miner was cemented in the record books last season as she set the all-time scoring record at Bauxite High School.
As the 2012-13 season draws nearer, it has been Crow who has been leading the charge in the offseason.
“Mary sets the tone everyday in practice with her work ethic,” Harrison said. “She’s such a competitor that she hates to lose at anything.”
Harrison returns all but one player from last year’s roster this year and will have a strong nucleus of talent eager to ascend back to the top of the conference.
“It’s a much more experienced team than we’ve had in the past,” Harrison said. “I’m looking at a team that has been through battles so it’s not as much learning stuff from scratch, it’s just fine-tuning things, getting after it and working hard.”
However, the Miners will have to fill the void of forward Alaina Crouse. Crouse led the conference last season in rebounds and was the team’s second leading scorer.
Despite the loss, Harrison believes his team is capable of filling that void.
“We’re definitely going to miss her (Crouse) presence on offense, but defensively I think Makayla Blanchett is probably the best on-ball defender I have,” Harrison said.
Harrison will look to Blanchett, along with 6-2 sophomore Holly Willmon and 5-11 senior Morgan Case to defend and score in the paint.
“We will probably be better on the interior than we were last year and that will help us against teams like Malvern,” Harrison said.
“Morgan (Case) has really stepped up this year and is more than likely going to be a starting post,” Harrison added. “Holly (Willmon) is a low-post presence. She’s strong, physical, finishes down low and rebounds the ball well.”
As far as concerns, Harrison mentions the point guard position as a possible question mark entering the season. With Crow as a natural two-guard, Harrison is counting on Jessica Sorvillo and Amy Etheridge to run the offense.
“I’m hoping those two kids step up and become the point guard we need,” Harrison said. “If they can do that, that lets Mary just relax into that two-guard spot where she has always been playing.”
The Miners will tip off its 2012-13 campaign on Nov.6 as they begin to put all of their pieces together.