FRONT ROYAL - Warren County girls basketball coach Randy Bush knew it wouldn’t be an easy season for his squad and he was right.
With a young and inexperienced team and with it being Bush’s first year as coach, it has been a learning experience for the Wildcats. As the season has gone on, the Wildcats have shown improvement and hope for the future.
“Practices are getting better,” Bush said. “They’re buying in a little more in practice. Now we just need to switch the switch and carry it over to the games from practice.”
Warren County has only three players returning from last year’s team with valuable experience in junior Brianna Hogan and sophomores Mackenzi Bates and Kara Mondrone.
For Hogan, it is the third different coach she has had in three years on the varsity squad. She said it’s been a tough season filled with ups and downs.
“Our team’s like a roller coaster,” Hogan said. “We do some good things and then do some bad things that we know we shouldn’t be doing. And then eventually we’ll correct them.”
Warren County has only eight players on the varsity squad, including two juniors, one freshman, five sophomores with no seniors.
One of the low points of the season for the Wildcats came on Dec. 4 in an 84-15 loss to Strasburg. The Wildcats failed to score 20 or more points in six of their first 10 contests.
However, Warren County has scored 36 or more points in three of its last five games, including its only two victories of the season.
On Jan. 22, the Wildcats beat Manassas Park, 47-18 for their first win of the season.
“It was a good win,” Hogan said. “Everyone was really excited and happy. I think everyone did amazing that night.”
The Wildcats (2-16, 2-5 Class 3 Northwestern) beat the Cougars again last Friday, 36-28.
Bates said it’s been much different this season from last season with basically a completely different team.
“Obviously, it’s been kind of like a big change all at once with a new coach, new players,” Bates said. “But we're working it out. And working on bonding and playing together and everyone’s learning each other’s strengths and what works for them. And trying to piece it all together. And honestly, this is like a learning year. And I feel like in the future we’ll hopefully be more prepared.”
Sophomore point guard Kara Mondrone said it’s been a valuable learning experience for her going from junior varsity to varsity. She said the pace has been a lot faster than JV, but she’s enjoyed playing with the team this season.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Mondrone said. “I like my team. I like being with them.”
One of the biggest issues the Wildcats have had this season is turning the ball over, especially against defensive full-court pressure.
Bush said the girls have practiced against Warren County’s varsity boys basketball team a few times to help the girls get used to handling the defensive pressure.
“We brought them in a couple times just to go against that quickness,” Bush said. “It helped out a little bit. If nothing else, it taught us the patience part of it because if we try to compete with them on their speed then they’d run right over us. But once we backed off and started being more methodical I think that helped us.”
The Wildcats play tonight at Skyline. Warren County will not be in the Region 3B tournament, which starts Friday, as only the top eight teams qualify.
Bush said that one thing that will help for next season is that he will be able to work with the kids all offseason.
He took the job in August and said it limited the time he had with the girls before this season started.
“Now we’re together as a team if I can get them to come in and buy-in,” Bush said. “And come in and do the offseason workouts get them to the team camps, keep the team competition level up. I’m totally excited about the future.”
One of the things Bush has done to prepare for the future is have his JV team practice with the varsity squad. That should help with players knowing each other even better next year and the team camaraderie.
While this season may not have gone as the Wildcats would have liked, Bates said she’s excited about the future of the program.
“It’s exciting to think about the future and what we have coming,” Bates said. “And we have a young team. So we’re going to be together for a while. I think that’s really going to help us too - starting to play together this year getting a feel for each other. And that’s going to carry on into the years coming.”