Girls Basketball: Southeastern off to hot start

Southeastern High School junior Kelsey Vollrath shoots the ball during their game at Cedarville last season. The Trojans are 9-3 this winter. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER
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Southeastern High School junior Kelsey Vollrath shoots the ball during their game at Cedarville last season. The Trojans are 9-3 this winter. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

SOUTH CHARLESTON — After three straight losing seasons, the Southeastern High School girls basketball team went to work in the offseason to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Midway through this season, the hard work is paying dividends. The Trojans are 9-3 and have already matched their win total from last season.

“We’ve come a long way since I’ve gotten here,” said Trojans coach Matt Harner, who is in his fourth season with the program. “It’s not me. The girls have definitely bought in and worked hard. They’re seeing success now because of their past struggles so to speak.”

The Trojans have won four of the last five games, including a key come-from-behind victory over Catholic Central. They trailed by 10 points at the half, but outscored the Irish 22-12 in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. It was the first time the Trojans have beaten the Irish since Harner became head coach.

“It was a very emotional win for us,” he said. “We didn’t play well in the first half. We just kept fighting and I don’t know if in years past we would’ve been tough enough to fight all the way back and get that done. These girls have really bought in and worked their tail off to get where they are now.”

The key has been creating more turnovers in their halfcourt defense, Harner said. They’re allowing an OHC-best 34.2 points per game.

“We’ve gotten a few more steals this year and gotten in passing lanes so we’re able to score a little bit more,” he said. “We’ve been able to apply some pressure to keep teams from scoring a lot of points and we’re scoring some more of our own.”

The Trojans have two seniors in Lily Hudson and Lily Bertemes, the first class to play all four years under Harner, and four juniors who were motivated to succeed after struggling the last two seasons, Harner said.

“It’s a testament to what these girls have done in years past,” he said. “They’ve really bought into the system year-in and year-out and just played hard. It’s really kind of working out for them, especially this year. They’ve done a good job of playing team ball and doing what we ask them to do.”

The experience is also showing on the offensive end on the court, Harner said. The Trojans are averaging 44 points per game, up from 38 last season and 34 two years ago.

“When you’ve gone through it for a few years, the game really does slow down for them,” he said. “They see things well now before it happens and are making better decisions.”

The Trojans are led by junior guard Kelsey Vollrath, who is averaging 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. She’s also shooting 36.1 percent from behind the 3-point line and 76.3 percent from the free throw line.

“She plays her butt off,” Harner said. “She plays so hard. She does a lot of things well that go unnoticed. She definitely scores with the 3. She’s done a good job of attacking and either getting to the free throw line or finishing those layups.”

Southeastern is 5-2 in the Ohio Heritage Conference South Division, one game back of first-place Greenon (11-1, 7-1). The Trojans’ goal is to win the OHC South and make a deep run in the postseason, but Harner wants his team to focus on the process, he said.

“I tell these girls every day that it’s got to start in practice,” he said. “We’ll take it one game at a time and one practice at a time. I really think the girls have done well with not looking ahead. They have a main goal in sight, but they’re focused on getting better every day.”

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