Falcon girls looking ahead to winning season

Henry Pope is a very lucky coach. Just ask him.

“This team has the best talent and team chemistry I’ve ever coached,” Pope said. “Now my job is to get them thinking outside their comfort zone, to take chances and explore the possibilities their talent will allow.”

He said basketball is a lot like life — you make mistakes, look a little silly, take it on the chin and move on.

Pope admitted it’s been a little slow so far.

“We’re still working on some fundamental skills,” Pope said. “But the girls are working much harder than last year and I sense a real bonding taking place out there.”

The Falcon’s 9-12 overall record last season placed them fourth in the Cascade Conference.

Practice is when the team must show their stuff to a demanding coach.

“I ask a lot, as the girls have discovered,” Pope said. “That’s the way I am; act a little crazy then bear down hard on the fundamentals.”

Pope insists on instilling three primary concepts.

The first is discipline, then teamwork and then that sense of chemistry that can take a team to the playoffs.

“I take a long look at their sense of urgency in practice, the intensity and ‘living on the edge’ attitude,” he said. “If they have that, they can do anything.”

Pope said that practice is all about “muscle memory” — knowing what to do and when to do it without having to think about it.

“In other words, more automatic reaction and less thinking,” he said.

“The girls are beginning to trust each other, and me. They need to know they can count on each other to get through the rough spots. They also understand that all of us are embarked on a steep learning curve.”

Pope said his strength is the interaction he has with his players and his understanding of the fundamentals.

“I want to continue the Falcon tradition of winning,” he added.

Last season’s top scorer Lindsey Newman will be crucial to this year’s success.

“Lindsey is someone who wants teammates to play as hard as she does,” Pope said. “And if they can throw off the shyness and get in the game, they can beat perennial winning schools like ATM and Cedarcrest.”

So far the team is responding well.

“We have the potential to exceed what we did last year; we’re making serious progress,” said Newman, a starter at forward. “The coach stresses the importance of individual performance within a team setting and we are starting to respond to that. We have to if we want to win.”

Pope has been excited by the high energy level he’s seen in practice.

“Energy and quickness are all good but they must be tempered with discipline,” he said.

Girls and coaches alike were disappointed their first game at Shorewood High School over the weekend was cancelled by the snow.

At noon on Saturday the girls face the Friday Harbor Wolverines in Erickson Gym, followed by the boys game at

1:30 p.m.

Newman said she isn’t nervous at all about Saturday’s home game.

“It’ll be exciting and

I think a lot of fans will be there,” she said.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@southwhidbeyrecord.com.