New style of defense catching on quickly
The Madras High School girls basketball team's situation is unlike any other right now.
Following coach Mike Osborne being put on administrative leave before the team's third day of practice, MHS athletic director Rory Oster and former boys freshman coach Zach Lillebo have stepped in to co-coach this year's White Buffalos.
Osborne was placed on leave from School District 509-J following allegations of sexual abuse involving a student at Madras High School, for which Osborne was arrested Nov. 20 and arraigned the next day in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.
Oster, who coached the girls team from 2008-2012 before accepting the athletic director position, said he brought in Lillebo to help due to family reasons and other obligations that will cause him to be away from the team at times during the season.
Oster recognizes how bizarre the whole situation is and that getting into full swing will take a considerable amount of time.
"We're going to take things in little steps right now," Oster said. "We've got to get the girls to understand the things we do differently, and then add more things as we go this year. We'll be pretty basic early on and rely on our talent."
Different terminology, types of drills and a new defensive look have been the biggest early hurdles for the team thus far, Oster said, but the team is picking things up quickly.
"The girls have been awesome; they have showed up every day and worked hard," Oster said. "At this point, that's all you ask for."
The biggest change Oster and Lillebo bring to the table is the style of defense they like to run. Rather than just a straight up man-to-man defense, Oster explained, fundamental defensive concepts still drive his system, but there's not quite as much individual movement in it.
"It's a defense that's dependent on one another," Oster said. "We will switch on every screen, front the posts at all times and try to minimize unwanted movement in our defense. We'll need to rotate properly as well."
The defense gives the look of a 1-2-2, and while ball pressure is applied, defenders off the ball are playing a position where they can see the ball and their defensive assignment at the same time, which allows for more help-side defense when someone gets beaten off the dribble.
"People are going to get beat in this type of defense, and that's OK," Oster said. "Not a lot of girls' high school teams run this type of defense. We just need to learn the rotations and trust that we will get the help defense when we need it."
Junior point guard Mariah Stacona, the team's only returning all-conference player from last season, said the team has been pretty quick to adapt to the new style of defense.
"We've been making the adjustments pretty well," said Stacona, who was on the team Oster last coached when she was a freshman. "So to me, not really much is new, but we've been learning pretty quickly, so that's been good."
From an offensive standpoint, Oster and Lillebo plan on keeping things similar to what the team has run in the past, but with a little twist.
The offense will be more of a free flowing motion style, which includes constant screens away from the ball and not a repeated pattern like in continuity styles of offense.
Oster said he's going to throw in more screens on the ball as well, and he wants to make sure Stacona, his dynamic scorer, gets her shots.
"Mariah needs to be taking a minimum of 20 shots a game," Oster said. "We need to get her a lot of open shots, and she'll create more offense than I will be able to as a coach running people off 15 different screens."
Joining Stacona in the backcourt will be sophomore Vanessa Esquivel. The duo will give the Buffs plenty of options from both the perimeter and slashing to the hoop, but Oster thinks he's got one of the league's top players on the low block, too.
Cirelle Frank, who didn't play last season due to injuries, is ready to be the presence underneath the hoops for the Buffs this season, Oster said.
"She's really good, and she works hard," Oster said. "I just need to keep her in the gym as much as I can, but she can be that type of all-conference player."
Frank will split time with the basketball and swim teams this season.
Also down low for the Buffs will be sophomores Janae Adams and Kiana Adams. Oster said both have been a little sick to start the season, but he's confident they will be able to handle varsity minutes once they are well.
"We've got girls that can work in the post," Oster said.
Two freshmen are expected to play significant minutes in the backcourt for the Buffs this season Sharayah and LeiOnah Scott.
"I'm excited about those two," Oster said. "We'll get some back up ball handling that we've lacked in the past when they learn the system."
Madras will open the season Dec. 6 at home against Crook County.