Defense key in McLouth turnaround

February 13, 2008

When the McLouth High girls basketball team began the season with three consecutive losses, coach Todd Cossman didn't search the Bulldogs' campus for a panic button.

He simply let his team play through its growing pains.

"We're a pretty young team," said Cossman, who's in his first year as MHS coach. "It's like a rollercoaster."

McLouth starts only one senior in guard Abby Annis. The Bulldogs start three sophomores (Kylie Shufflebarger, Missy Rome and Cassidy Bristol) and one freshman (Logan Terry).

The rollercoaster ride started when McLouth handed Jefferson County North its first loss of the year on Jan. 4. That victory proved to be a launching pad for MHS victories.

The Bulldogs won four in a row after winning at JCN. After an 0-3 start, McLouth is sitting above .500 at 7-6.

The key to the turnaround?

"Our press defense has been a lot better," Cossman said. "We're getting a lot more easy buckets."

And MHS' young players are feeling a lot more comfortable. Take sophomore point guard Missy Rome, for instance.

Rome has piled on the points lately, with 20 points against Topeka Cair Paravel, 18 against the Maranatha Academy of Shawnee and 21 against Cornerstone.

"She's done a great job," Cossman said of Rome. "We have to get easy buckets off steals and that's really helped her game. Our guards' point totals have gone up since we've gotten more steals."

The easy buckets start with the pressure from Rome and Annis. Cossman said he implemented a new full-court press to the program this season. At the start of the year, someone may have missed an assignment here or there. Now, the players are properly filling their spots and forcing turnovers.

Shufflebarger's post presence has been another key to the Bulldogs turnaround.

"Our posts have been rebounding a lot better and not allowing second-chance points," Cossman said.

Offensively, Rome, Annis and Shufflebarger have been the primary scorers. When the trio all scores in double figures, as they did against Cair Paravel (Rome 22, Annis 20, Shufflebarger 12), the Bulldogs may be tough to beat.

"That's what we're looking for, is a few more people to close in on double figures," Cossman said. "Then, you can't take one person away. You have to try to take multiple people away."

Senior Sam Farris and junior Haley Holwyck give Cossman additional scoring options off the bench.

With such a young team, it's difficult to predict how the Bulldogs will end the season. Cossman is hoping to land on the positive end of the roller coaster, though.

"The sky's the limit with this team," Cossman said.

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