What a turnaround one year makes.
The Southeastern Lady Trojans went from playing .500 ball last season to a current record of 11-3 overall and 7-1 in the Ohio Heritage Conference, and that’s with returning only two starters from last year’s 12-12 squad.
“This season we have a group of players that are willing to work hard and put in the time necessary for the team to be successful,” said the team’s only senior, Juliana Erwin, who didn’t start last season but has earned a spot this year.
“Also, we are all really good friends and get along well together on and off the court. Our love of the game seems to become greater and greater each day.”
First-year coach Kari Kitchen said she feels success has come through a well-balanced offense and a quick defense.
“Our strength is defense. We are a small but quick team that looks to be aggressive on defense,” said Kitchen, who took over at Southeastern after assisting coach Jim Lightle for two seasons. She was the head coach at Northeastern for five years before joining the Trojans’ staff.
“Defense is about hard work and heart, and these kids have bought into that since day one,” she added.
Even though Southeastern boasts a young squad, the group is unselfish and knows the game.
“We distribute the ball well on offense and are willing to make the extra pass to get the best shot possible,” said Kitchen, who starts one senior, a junior and three sophomores. The first two subs off the bench are both freshmen. “We are a very young team.”
Aside from the two starters, no other returnees were even full-time varsity players.
“This group of ladies is special because they work extremely hard and are very coachable,” Kitchen said. “They are very unselfish, and have pretty good knowledge of the game, considering how young they are.”
As for that well-balanced offense, the Trojans have had six players score in double figures this season with sophomore Lexie Perry leading with an average14.2 points per game. As a team, the Trojans average 13 assists per game.
“I think that we have raised the bar on expectations from ourselves and our teammates,” said Perry, who is shooting 35 percent from 3-point and 73 percent from the free-throw line. “Coach Kitchen pushes us daily to be better than we were the day before. Our personnel is much different than last year and we have all learned our role on the team, which has helped make us successful.”
Southeastern girls come at you with a variety of weapons. Perry is the point guard who can drive, shoot and distribute the ball well, while Kalie Entler can do the same at the other guard position. Add in the skills of junior Savannah Sullivan and Libby Hudson and you have tough customers who have only lost to Greeneview, the conference leader, and to Kenton Ridge and Greenon in non-conference games.
Hudson averages 8.8 points per game while Maddy McKee is at 6.7 and Jessica Erwin at 4.8.
“We do have a variety of players,” Kitchen said. “And those stats alone don’t pay tribute to our balance. We have had six different kids score in double figures this season. Although we only have one player averaging double figures, the scoring is spread out from night to night. The current Lady Trojans have the will, desire, and ‘want to’ of teams of the past. Despite our youth, they play a very unselfish style of basketball that begins and ends with defense, which Southeastern teams of the past pride themselves in. We have lots of growth to do to be put in the same categories of the teams of the past - because you are talking about some great players and great teams there - but, I do believe this team has the drive to put itself in that category in the future.”
Southeastern has six conference games remaining this season. The Trojans next game is Saturday, Jan. 25 at Mechanicsburg.
SOUTHEASTERN GIRLS HOOP
Record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 OHC (doesn’t include Wednesday’s game)
Leading scorer: Lexie Perry (14.2)
Most assists: Kalie Entler (3.6)
Most 3-pointers: Maddy McKee (16 of 46)