At the beginning of the season, there was a bit of a disconnect hampering the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team.
“It was tough to get the girls to play together at first,” said PDS second-year head coach Kamau Bailey.
“We had six freshmen come in and the sophomores and juniors were not sure what to make of them. There was a little divide at first. Once they understood their roles, we started playing together as a team.”
After the players got on the same page, the Panthers showed progress. “We started getting wins,” said Bailey, whose team posted a final record of 5-16. “We beat Stuart two or three weeks after they had beaten us in their place and after having lost to them twice last year.
“We got a win against Hightstown and they beat us by 38 last year. We were also able to get a win at the George School (Pa.). All three of those were wins against teams we haven’t beaten in a while.”
In Bailey’s view, those breakthroughs were the product of diligence and team unity.
“It shows that the hard work these girls are putting in is starting to pay off,” said Bailey.
“I saw a bunch of progress this season. Our team chemistry and the bond the girls were able to develop was a key component to our continued progress.”
While the Panthers ended the season by falling 66-36 to Ewing in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament and 46-16 to WW/P-S in a MCT consolation contest, Bailey believes that his young squad gained some good lessons from those setbacks.
“I wanted them to see higher caliber teams and what intensity level they are at,” said Bailey, noting that his team had no seniors on the roster this winter and everyone should be returning.
“They need to see that if we are going to play at that level. The girls were doing stuff against Ewing they hadn’t done all year. They got the ball up the court against a pretty tough press. I want then to take something from each loss.”
Sophomore guard Shayla Stevenson raised the level of her play this winter.
“Shayla had an outstanding year,” said Bailey. “As a freshman she had to bear a lot of the burden of the offense. She was our best player and other teams would key on her. With (Bridget) Kane and (Ryan) Robinson in the backcourt, that freed her up to do some scoring, which is her thing.”
The one-two punch of juniors Isabel Meyercord and Helen Healey gave the Panthers some good things in the paint.
“Isabel missed the first four or five games; it took a while for her to get going,” said Bailey.
“She really helped us on the glass and defensively. Helen has gotten a lot better from last year. She grabbed rebounds and used her body to hold off other girls. Her leadership is important for us, she communicates with me and the girls. She gets her teammates together on the court.”
In the backcourt, the freshman pair of Kane and Robinson stood out. “Bridget was tied with Shayla for team lead with 105 points coming into the last game and got five more to end up with 110 and be our leading scorer,” said Bailey.
“It is phenomenal for her to have the confidence and composure to hit those long shots. She went from middle school and jumped over JV and ended up as a starter on varsity. Ryan Robinson gained a lot of confidence. She came into her own with her ability to get the ball and get her shot. She set a school record for bench press for girls. Once she realized that she was stronger than the other girls she would get rebounds and loose balls.”
Another freshman, Madison Coyne, made a strong contribution in her debut campaign.
“Coyne has a good eye for the ball, she had a lot of blocks and had six in one game,” said Bailey, who noted that his other freshmen, Summer Patterson, Katherine Bennett, and Grace Barbara all made progress.
“She had a defensive presence; we just need to get her to attack the basket and not pass up shots. She has a complete game, she can dribble, she gets rebounds, she is a great passer. She is a good athlete and fires up the rest of the girls.”
Bailey is fired up about his team’s prospects. “My deal with this team is that they have all of the tools,” said Bailey.
“They need a few more games and a little more time in the gym with me. They need to get stronger and to execute the plays better. They need to work on their ability to put the ball in the basket.”