WOODSTOCK – Central girls basketball coach Bryan Scott took a different approach when addressing the Falcons’ goals for the upcoming season, one he said was inspired by the James Madison University women’s basketball players who attend his church.
As the Falcons began their fifth season under Scott, the head coach instructed each of his 11 players to write down their individual goals on an index card. After that was done, Scott passed around another set of cards on which each player wrote down team-specific goals for 2018-19.
“The first one is we wanna have a winning season,” Scott said recently of the team goal that showed up most on those index cards. “Overall, what came in second was winning the district, and some of them (included) regionals and on to getting to the state tournament, which it’s a little early, but I’m praying if we can play together as we should, I think we might be alright. There’s some very attainable team goals that they came with, so definitely if we continue to work hard each and every day in practice, I don’t see no reason why we can’t accomplish some of those goals.”
Central is coming off a 15-10 season in which the Falcons reached the Region 2B tournament quarterfinals, where they were knocked out in a 13-point loss to eventual Class 2 state runner-up Buffalo Gap.
Three starters from last year’s squad — Scott’s daughter Tycara (7.4 points, 6.6 rebounds per game in 2017-18), fellow senior Kendall Herbaugh (7.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and junior Maria Marston (8.6 ppg, 2.6 steals per game) — return to provide a core of veteran multi-year starters, and Maya Frye-Williams saw playing time as a sophomore in 2017-18. Outside of that quartet, however, Central’s varsity experience grows slim.
Bryan Scott, who lost Ayanna Strother, the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Girls Basketball Player of the Year, to graduation, said he kept all 11 players who showed up for varsity tryouts several weeks ago, and among those are freshmen Ella Toothman, Erika Hutton and Aniya Cheatham, whom, at 5-foot-10, Scott envisions as the backup center to the 6-1 Tycara Scott.
Youth hasn’t hampered the Falcons in their preseason preparation, however. Far from it, actually. Scott said this year’s group, having now been in his system for a handful of years, needs little instruction when it comes to executing practice drills.
That’s meant that the Falcons are spending less time focusing on the little things, such as how a drill should be run or something as simple as making good passes, Tycara Scott said.
“We haven’t had to spend a lot of time on that this year, so I think that’s a big thing that’s gonna play in,” she said. “That way we can work on getting more in-depth things in and working on plays more, doing other drills that can help with multiple things instead of having to work on those little itty-bitty things that you should know.”
Bryan Scott said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from the Falcons through their first couple weeks of practice and a scrimmage against Gap (Central also scrimmaged Broadway on Tuesday), though things haven’t been flawless, unsurprising given the newness of the season.
The Falcons have to eliminate “silly turnovers,” he said, and the team’s freshmen have made freshman mistakes, two issues that more playing time and experience should alleviate. Scott said his team also had some problems with one of his more difficult offensive schemes, prompting the head coach to take a more simplified approach that he said has been received well by his players.
If there is one thing that Central can hang its hat on this season, though, Bryan Scott said it’s the team’s improved shooting, an area that Tycara Scott said should help compensate for the Falcons’ lack of size.
“Maria Marston, I can definitely tell she’s worked on her shot,” Bryan Scott said. “Kendall Herbaugh has really impressed me with her improved outside jump shot. And even Tycara, me and her worked this summer on trying to develop that little 10- to 15-foot mid-range jumper instead of always playing with your back against the basket. I’m trying to instill in her sometimes you might have to turn and face, and if they’re laying off of you, especially a little 10-, 12-foot jump shot, if you can get that into your repertoire, that’s great.”
Bryan Scott admitted that his team didn’t show off its improved shooting against Gap — which Central beat in three out of the four quarters played, he said — but he noted that the Falcons pressed and played “that intense defense” that led to a lot of layups in transition.
“We’ve always been really strong defensively,” said Herbaugh, a second-team All-Region 2B selection last season, “and I just feel like we keep building on that and get stronger and stronger.”
Central opens the season at county rival Stonewall Jackson on Tuesday, and Herbaugh said the Falcons are out to continue the run of success the program has enjoyed in recent years.
“Right now a team goal, I think, is to be able to produce and kind of show everyone that we’re still a Central girls basketball team,” she said. “We’re still where we were a couple years ago, and just kind of prove to all the naysayers that we can do it, we will do it, and we’re gonna show everyone we’re gonna accomplish what we want to accomplish.”