Bishop’s girls rebuild for another run
Bishop McGuinness girls basketball coach Brian Robinson doesn’t constantly remind his team that they can win the school’s eighth straight NCHSAA 1A championship.
“We mention it occasionally,” Robinson said, “It is our goal. But, this is like studying for a test. If you prepare for it over time, you are more likely to make an A than if you just try to cram for it the night before. So this is a process for us to be ready when it matters most.”
Robinson, who coached all seven of the championship teams, faces one of his biggest challenges.
Having graduated six players from last year’s squad, Robinson believes this year’s group with one senior, four juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen is his youngest since the 2005-06 squad went 31-0 and started the championship run.
Counting two players who were called up from the junior varsity for the playoffs last March, the Villains return eight players and of those eight, just four logged significant time. To start the season, Robinson will rely heavily on three juniors, wing Cameron Nieters, guard Olivia DeFrancesco and forward Julia Brown. They ranked second, third and fourth in scoring last year behind Sammi Goldsmith, who is now playing at Lynchburg College.
“The way it looks starting the season is those are three that we will be counting on,” Robinson said.
Alex Putnam, a sophomore who is expected to provide offense at either of the guard positions, is likely to be another starter. Robinson was undecided on Tuesday who might be the starter at point guard. He was considering a trio – freshman Tia Cappuccio, junior McKenzie Rochford and sophomore Tessa Johnston – plus DeFrancesco and Putnam.
“Once we get that settled, everything falls into place,” Robinson said. “We have the pieces to go around it once we find out who can do it. And our philosophy is not to worry so much about winning in November and December but to start getting everything into shape by January so we will be ready for the playoffs.”
Thanks in part to that philosophy, the Villains haven’t won the Northwest 1A/2A title the past three years. Last season, they failed to make the conference tournament final.
“The way our schedule is, we start conference play next week, so if you lose a couple of games early, you’re not going to win the conference championship,” Robinson said. “Winning the conference would be great but it’s not the end of the world. We want to be able to make our move in time to be ready for that single elimination in late February and early March.”
Even though this team is shorter and faster than last year’s, Robinson will stick with the system that produced the seven championships.
“We’ll use our quickness to our advantage,” Robinson said. “But, we’ll use the same system although we may tweak a thing or two. If we stay consistent how we do things, we make it easier for the girls. It’s not a difficult system to learn. If we change much, the girls will get confused.”