McLouth basketball coach favors winter break, approaches it as evaluation time
McLouth High girls basketball coach Todd Cossman is a fan of the winter break.
Not because he gets a vacation from work for the holidays, and not because the Bulldogs have a lengthy gap in their schedule, going from Dec. 13 to Jan. 6 without a game, but because there is so much the team can accomplish at practice in the meantime.
“The break tends to really help us because it gives us a chance to evaluate those first four games,” Cossman said, adding that MHS has been working on the things that need improvement. “I actually like the Christmas break; I always feel like my teams are a little better coming out of it.”
He said it is similar to the beginning of the season because there are so many practices, but better because now the coaching staff knows about the team’s deficiencies and those areas can be addressed.
“You’ve got those first four games to kind of test yourself, kind of see where your strengths are and where your weaknesses are at,” the coach said.
McLouth went 2-2 in its first four games, losing to St. Marys, 65-39, and Horton, 53-40, before bouncing back with two victories against Doniphan West, 57-35, and Jackson Heights, 62-57.
Cossman said team defense and rebounding were the areas that most needed to be mended.
“Our ability to guard the ball has been pretty weak. We give up way too much dribble penetration,” Cossman said, noting that, at practice, he has been emphasizing the importance of keeping the ball out of the lane, forcing teams to shoot outside and keeping them off the offensive glass.
“We’ve got to get better defensively,” he added, saying the team played better offensively in its two victories. “We’ve given up too many points.”
Those are the areas the Bulldogs spent most of last week working on in preparation for resuming its schedule this week. Although Cossman said the players were “rusty” when they returned Dec. 29 to practice following some time off, he is looking forward to the rest of the season because of the strides some younger players have made to help out the team’s talented, more experienced players, junior guard Missy Rome and junior forwards Kylie Shufflebarger and Cassidy Bristol.
“The first several games, we’re playing some younger players and they’re going to be — I don’t know if nervous is the word — but they’re not nearly as aggressive early on in the season as they get later on,” Cossman said.
But with a handful of games under their belts, the Bulldogs’ freshmen now are ready to make more of a contribution.
“They got used to playing in games,” their coach said. “The nerves aren’t nearly as bad; now they can just play basketball and take their shots when they’re open.”
Freshmen Morgan Drinnon and Terri Stewart have stepped up already and Cossman expects that to continue — “We’re going to have to lean on them to help us out in the scoring a little bit,” he said.
Stewart is solid from 15 feet and in, and Drinnon has shown the ability to hit from three-point range, which Cossman said gives MHS a much needed dimension.
McLouth played Maranatha on Tuesday night after The Mirror’s deadline. Cossman said that would be a good test For MHS coming back from the winter break before playing host to Jefferson County North at 6 p.m. Friday. Visit www.tonganoxiemirror.com for more on those games.