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The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

Senior leaders must embrace the inexperienced

West girls basketball turn to senior leadership to shape an overall young team in ’23-’24 season
Darrelynn Dunn
Freshman Avery Dodge is one of five key freshmen who are on the Varsity roster this season for Wildcat Girls Basketball. Head Coach Darrelynn Dunn has high hopes for Dodge and crew to improve on last season’s finish.

Gritty, scrappy, hardworking, and tenacious: these are the words Normal West Girls Basketball Head Coach Darelynn Dunn uses to describe his 2023-2024 team.

As the Wildcats jump into this season with a 1-5 record thus far, they have some character as well as building blocks to build on.

But it won’t be easy. There are some tough challenges ahead, and the leaders have to step up to have success.

To put it mildly, this team is different from a year ago. Besides having a losing record, experience was a strength of the program during the 2022-2023 season.

It is not that way this year. This roster has some returning senior leaders in the likes of Oliva Patton and Meredith Bertsche, but these Senior leaders are joined by a slew of freshmen who’ve made the roster, as well.

“We have five freshmen on varsity, a different change of pace. Avery Dodge, as well as Journey Johnson, Kylie Wilson, and Hope Ferrell are great. They’re all stepping in and stepping up right away,” Coach Dunn notes of his standout freshmen.

Dunn knows these freshmen have talent, but he also understands leadership in the seniors and upperclassmen this year has helped the young players reinforce the culture of the team, as well as how they can accomplish the team’s goals for the season.

What are their goals? They hope to beat out teams like Normal Community for the conference title.
“As goals go, the obvious ones are competing for a conference championship first, and then focusing on the postseason. We’re attacking every game a little differently this year. We just want to take it one game at a time because some of our players have limited experience,” Dunn notes.

The coaching staff has loved how the girls understand how physically demanding a season can be and that their hard-working mentality, and gritty basketball style can help them reach these goals.

In fact, last season, Coach Dunn noticed that the girls were a little weaker and burned out by the end. Due to the team’s previous burnout, they have heavily focused on the weight room during the pre-season prep time to build their bodies back up to the physical standard.

“The last few seasons have been tough. Last season we battled injuries for most of the season. Last year, we had three starters out,” Dunn explains.

Even though they had people competing, injuries were still a blow to the team. “[However], this year we look stronger. I feel like we are faster than we were last year. We’re more conditioned than last year at this point. It is going to help us further down the road for sure,” Coach Dunn furthers.

Last year, Coach Dunn “was more proud [of] that season [because] the girls didn’t care about the wins and losses,” despite their injuries and tough season overall. This year, however, Coach Dunn believes they’re attacking differently and that the younger girls will have a huge impact due to the opportunities they were presented with last year.

There are multiple keys to a successful winning season. Coach Dunn has emphasized that the success of previous seasons is not enough to get to where they want to be, but there are factors they can learn from. One of those factors is the little details within games that can change momentum during a game.

“There’s gonna be focus on the details and more so, staying ‘even keel.’ Never too high, Never too low… They’re worried about the game and putting pressure on themselves. We must approach it as one play at a time, and be like: ‘It’s going to be good. It’s going to be bad, but just stay the course.’ During bad games, and motivating them to keep executing during the good games,” Coach Dunn expresses.

Dunn also recognizes that the rebounding and turnover issues tainted the team last year and were a major part of why they were losing games. In fact, “Rebounding and turnovers in games are huge. We lost the rebounding battle [the] majority of our games and we’re in bad business as far as turning the ball over. Eliminating those extra opportunities for the other team will put us in a better position to win,” Dunn points out.

A basketball season has its challenges. There are many in-game factors the team has to prepare for, but these Wildcats are ready for it.

Catch the next home game against the Pontiac Indians on Thursday, November 30th at 7:00 pm in the main gym.

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