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Girls' basketball: Lions steadily improving, but still winless

Head coach Billy McKinney thinks the team is on the edge of their first victory


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Freshman Maggie Cochran looks to score against Sherwood on Jan. 17. Cochran is part of a young core of players head coach Billy McKinney thinks could be a conference force in the coming years.Lady Lion head coach Billy McKinney's go-to phrase, “baby steps,” might have to change in the very near future.

“You know baby steps? Well, now we're starting to walk normal,” said McKinney with a laugh. “We're getting better. It started getting better about four games ago, and we've started picking it up. We're just missing that little piece.”

That little piece, a little stronger inside presence and a better ability to break a press, are among the relatively small number of changes they'll need in order to begin contending in the Northwest Oregon Conference as league play begins. At the moment, the Lions have yet to come up with a victory, dropping their first 11 contests of the season.

But judging from practice on Wednesday afternoon, the Lions were riding a winning streak: they were laughing and smiling, just a day after falling to 44-37 Milwaukie on Tuesday night.

Much of that, said McKinney, has to do with the program's history of mediocrity. When the girls get a taste of success, as they did in a strong performance against the Broncos (5-7, 2-1 NWOC), they can use the baby steps as motivation moving forward. Though St. Helens lost by seven, it was only seven, and for most of the game, the Lions were in the thick of things.

“Girls, this team is the two-time defending league champions, and you took them down to the wire,” McKinney told his team after the loss. “What does that say about you guys?”

What it says, despite the Lions' record, is teams have to take them seriously. Even the Milwaukie coach approached McKinney after the game, minutes after having to leave his starters in most of the final quarter, impressed by the disparity between the 0-11 team on paper, and the tough team on the court.

Keeping the team's morale up, though it's a conscious issue for McKinney and his staff, hasn't been a big issue.

“We're constantly telling them that they're better than their record shows, constantly telling them that they're very good,” said McKinney.

“You're a championship team, all you've got to do is start believing in yourselves, is what we're telling them. It's a team in the making, that's what it is, and that's what we tell them,” he said. “(We're) feeding them full of positives.”

McKinney relishes the chance to play each team again, anxious to see the progress between one game and the next. So far, the teams the Lions have faced are a combined 7-2 in league play, and McKinney hopes the extra games under the team's belt will turn into more positive results.

“I told the kids what I enjoy about this league is that you get to play everybody twice,” said McKinney. “If we didn't get you the first time, we (will) definitely get you the second time.”

SUMMARY

Sherwood 56, St. Helens 24

SHER 20 13 14 9 – 24

STHL 4 8 4 8 – 24

St. Helens 24: Reardon 12, Roth 4, Nollette, Hembree, Tupper 2, Perry, Harcourt 1, Cochran 3, Kyle-Milward 2

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